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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Doha-Conditioned...


The weather is currently perfect, brilliant, awe-inspiring here in Doha... The Qatari winter is like the Scandinavian summer... Yet, whilst only living about a mile from the Doha Zoo, we never actually considered walking there. Villaggio Mall and Aspire Park are only a few miles further away, but till now we haven't even considered biking there. We've lived in Doha for about 18 months and the only way I've ever entered or exited one of the pervasive gated-compounds (including ours) scattered about the city is by car... My family and I, who while living in London could go for month without stepping into a personal car, have become 'Doha-Conditioned'... 

There are individuals in Doha, predominantly expats dare-devils, who do venture out, beyond the hermetic borders of their habitats, by various ambulatory and mechanical (cardiovascular) means, such as running sneakers, bicycles and or rollerblades. But coming across such oddities doesn't happen too often. This is a true shame, as climate-wise, or even in geographical terms (the landscape here is very flat), there really are no reasons why one couldn't/ shouldn't walk or bike around town...

There are some attempts to rectify this, as can be evidenced in the linked article (sourced from Laurene Boym's Twitter account), and current interventions of such actions can be seen at various locales in Doha. There's about a mile long, very straight stretch, of bicycle path adjacent to Al Waab Street. A flanking yellow line has been painted next to each side of some of the main traffic arteries within Education City, assumedly to allow for future pedalers (as of yet I haven't come across anyone using a bike within EC). And there are a few pedestrian crossing scattered about town. However, such internventions of 'plop urbanism' lack any, whatchamacallit, 'urban liquidity', as they are all too disconnected from each other to provide a more unified, 'flowy', and usable whole... How such conundrums will be resolved will require some adjoined, simultaneously bottom up & top down thinking and management, a fat dollop of elbow-grease, and a fair share of investment. And, as always, the devil will be in the implementation details. Will there be the allowance, for example, to prioritize pedestrians and bicycles before cars if/ when such a choice has to be made? When/ if the metro line and prioritized bus lanes are implemented, how can the buss lanes be pacified from the over enthused, 'slip-lane heroes' that currently aim to shortcut and plague the more upstanding (law-abiding) drivers, and, once one gets off either forms of such public transport, will the relevant ancillary infastructure (accommodating buss-stops, sidewalks, prioritized pedestrian crossings, rent-a-bike points and covered bicycle racks, neighborhood satellite busses, etc.) be in place to allow the users to move on to their final destinations without too much of a hassle..?

There's a myriad of related issues that will need considerable political will and design nous to enable a functioning and hopefully amiable outcome that would serve all residents of Qatar, including figuring out how either a bicycle, or an abaya and thoub, could be re-designed to accommodate each other..?! 

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