Intrinsic to a healthy urban lifestyle, walkable neighbourhoods are not merely crucial for modern cities but also a solution for 21st-century Indian cities that are facing severe traffic issues, environmental problems and grave health concerns.

The 20th-century’s obsession with vehicles has become a nightmare for the 21st-century. Delhi, for instance, ranks high on the air pollution levels, and with more cars being added to the street every day, the situation has become even more pressing. Today, the urban centres of many cities across the country have turned into a colossal traffic jam, toxic gas chambers with blaring noises and chaotic menace with no place for pedestrians. While this has brought health and safety issues to the forefront, it has also created pressure on the government to expand infrastructure on limited land.

The growing concerns have led to a paradigm shift in how the cities are being looked at and planned. The focus has now shifted from adding more vehicles to reconnecting pedestrians with the street. New redevelopment policies are being drafted to create walkable neighbourhoods that rank high on sustainability and reap multiple health, environmental and socio-economic benefits to the urban dwellers.

Delhi has been at the forefront of this shift—the pedestrianisation. A 1.5 km long stretch in Karol Bagh market in the year 2019, and the redevelopment of Chandni Chowk in 2020, stand testament to how the city is trying to give back to its people. Apart from these, the development authorities are also focusing on Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) along the popular transport corridors.

TOD connects the residential neighbourhoods to existing urban infrastructure and promotes public transport dependence by reducing travel time and distance and encouraging walk-to-work. For its numerous benefits, walkability is deeply ingrained in the planning process of the project. Its primary role is to minimise the dependence on vehicles, which directly reduces the pollution levels in the area. Delhi, being termed ‘the most polluted capital city’ for consecutive years, has become even more pertinent to dissociate the use of motorised transports. A TOD project does so by leveraging the strategic location near the mass transit hubs and restricting the vehicles to the site periphery. Furthermore, by creating consolidated infrastructure on limited land and providing commercial facilities across the diverse verticals of retail, entertainment, banqueting, corporate offices and community spaces, the design aims to bring amenities of everyday use closer to the homeowners discouraging the use of private vehicles.

Besides lowering the dependence on automobiles, walkable neighbourhoods also reap numerous health benefits. TOD focuses on the compact design of the neighbourhood and encourages the creation of expansive open spaces. These spaces amassed in TOD projects act as a green lung and provide residents with ample fresh air. The residential units are oriented to frame views of nature, thereby establishing the connection with the outside.  

A walkable neighbourhood also promotes daily interaction between the neighbours by providing multiple encounters on the streets, thus strengthening the bond between the community. Besides, recreational facilities are also part of TOD projects. These include sports fields, amphitheatre, open-air gym, children’s park and seating spaces. Spatial planning further ensures that the end-users experience nature in all its glory within a safe and easily accessible location, away from vehicular intrusions.