Sidewalks = Social Justice in Amman, Jordan

istanbul truck driving on stairs photo

Istanbul sidewalks aren't the sole province of pedestrians. Photo by Jennifer Hattam.

Sidewalks in Istanbul, when they do exist, are often narrow, uneven, rutted, and frequently torn up entirely, forcing pedestrians into the street to dodge fast, erratically moving cars. So it doesn't seem all that hyperbolic to me when New York Times writer Michael Slackman describes Amman's "new, flat sidewalks that do not end suddenly, for no apparent reason" as nearly a miracle.The sidewalks and benches recently added to Jordan's capital are, Slackman allows,

easy to dismiss as discretionary conveniences, unnecessary urban flourishes.... But to talk to those behind the sidewalks and the benches is to see these ubiquitous objects as powerful tools of social planning, tearing down walls between rich and poor, helping a city bereft of an identity develop a sense of place and ownership.

Fighting 'Dubaification' With More Walkable Streets
In a city facing what one urban developer calls "Dubaification," the gaps between the haves and the have-nots are growing. And for those who can't afford to drive -- those who, if it's anything like Turkey, are walking on traffic medians, in the road, or even alongside the freeway, for lack of better pedestrian access -- these small changes can make a big difference in livability.

Creating pedestrian plazas, paving roads with cobblestones to slow traffic, improving sidewalks, setting stores back from the street, and lowering walls around buildings are not new ways to make a city more walkable -- and sustainable. But in a country where citizens have little power to demand better living conditions, the efforts led by Mayor Omar Maani seem particularly notable. They also have a special resonance that they likely would not have in Portland or Paris: They increase women's freedom.

"If you're a girl and you're just hanging out on a regular street or sitting on a sidewalk, it's considered inappropriate," said Reem al-Hambali, 20, as she sat in the bright winter sun along the first pedestrian plaza built here. "Everyone will look at you and ask, 'Why is this girl sitting there?' But here it's O.K. We can sit here and it's normal."

Via: "Sidewalks, and an Identity, Sprout in Jordan's Capital," New York Times
More about sidewalks and walking:
Calculate Your Neighborhood's Walk Score
Six Sidewalks That Work While You Walk
Slow Walking for Slow Down London
Walking: An Equal-Opportunity Answer to Traffic Congestion, From New York to New Delhi
NOx-Sucking Sidewalks Could Save Lives (or at Least, Lungs)
The Top 10 Least Walkable U.S. Cities
Big Surprise: America's Fittest Cities are Also Most Walkable Cities

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