Walking in Times of Uber Cities

Seoullo 7017, South Korea. Source: https://www.mvrdv.nl/
Seoullo 7017, South Korea. Source: https://www.mvrdv.nl/

Our mobility originates with our feet. Until the last century, the historic configurations of cities were dictated by the human capacity to walk. The Inca and Aztec civilizations sustained large empires for centuries on foot. Walking 5km/hour for 1 hour provides a radius of 2.5 km and an area of 20 km2. These are the distances that define a village globally. Even today the area that can be crossed in one hour with dominant modes of transport functionally defines a city. When cars were introduced to cities, traveling 6-7 times faster than a pedestrian, urban settlements increased their connected area 6-7 times in linear terms. (Marchetti, 1994).

The image above is a photo of the recently inaugurated Seoullo 7017 (Seoul Skygarden), a transformation of the total 938 meters of a former elevated road for cars (constructed in 1970) into an elevated pedestrian garden. The project is connected to 17 existing pedestrian roads and to the Seoul Station. The authors are the Dutch firm MVRDV. Over the last 15 years, this Korean city has shown an effective pattern of urban design, one that displaces infrastructures for cars in order to convert them in spaces for pedestrians. Lets remember the reconfiguration of the Cheonggyecheon Stream back in 2005. Other successful examples with a similar urban views exist in Mexico City and New York. 

Seoullo 7017, South Korea. Source: https://www.mvrdv.nl/
Seoullo 7017, South Korea. Source: https://www.mvrdv.nl/

Considering this pattern of urban design, what is the position of pedestrians and cyclists in a global sharing economy where Uber (the mobile app officially launched in 2011) serves 570 cities across the world? As we approach a future of autonomous, driverless, electric cars and buses, the conditions of walkable mobility will need to rely on smart mutations of existing roads and highways. These spaces are becoming obsolete in the cyborg city, where artificial intelligence and natural human flows (such as pedestrian movements) intensively interact.

A recent Uber route in Bogota, Colombia
A recent Uber route in Bogota, Colombia
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