Environment Support Group
ESG Opinion

Walking in rectangles


by Janani S, ESG.

Everyday, we traverse from task to task, point to point in a set of linear pathways, many times our day is merely a to-do list to be completed. Whether for recreation or exercise, one wishes to access the city’s parks, and here again, we are met by a closed rectangular path on which we walk. The parks of Bengaluru miss free-flowing pathways intercepted by landscape in an organic manner and are reduced to paved rigid walkways between rows of shrubs or trees.

So, is there another way we can imagine these parks, the lungs of each locality? The park design calls for much more freedom and loose definitive boundaries. Such an approach evokes multiplicity in the usage of spaces. Climbing trees, lying down on dew-laden grass, reading a book under the tree, eating your packed lunch on the natural rocks, or running around wildly in any direction one pleases to are some of the activities that would make the park experience enriching as opposed to robotic walking.

The rigid design of Bengaluru’s local urban parks — Paved pathways and plastic play area

Unstructured wild play encouraged by loosely defined landscape

Parks, streets, lakes and similar public spaces belong to the commons and accessing them freely and equitably is our right. Since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, it has become abundantly clear to us that the lack of sufficient outdoor time can lead to claustrophobia and mental ill health. Children need access to unstructured open spaces to be able to nurture their imagination and simulate cognitive development.

Another aspect of our parks is that they are locked up for the most part of the day and open only at specific timings. Now, let us imagine that the parks had no fence, no gate but was a seamless continuation of the side walk, where pedestrians and cyclists can pass through to reach their destination. Today, walking is integrated into many citizens lives as a time bound activity which serves only the purpose of exercising the body. Why can’t walking serve its logical function of taking us from place to place, exercise only being the positive outcome of it! Also, access to nature based and free flowing parks are the need of a growing child, and set timings to parks denies many children the access to these spaces

Left- Current scenario of gated urban local parks
Right – Unfencing and free access provides variety of movement and expands usable green area; SOURCE: Author

In the image above, one can appreciate the free flowing spaces created by just removing the fence from existing parks and the possibilities of movement and activity it can support. Let us rethink and reimagine how and why we would like to use our city’s parks, whether as a pause point to connect with nature or walk through the oxygen rich zone to reach our work place, but let us be able to make such a choice.

First Published on Medium

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