Cairo Will Turn Its Downtown into a Pedestrian Plaza

Cairo, a city packed with cars, is remaking its downtown into a pedestrian-friendly plaza, writes TreeHugger. The city’s urban planning authority has announced that plans will be complete within a year, and implementation will take another 10-15 years.

Currently, the well-known thoroughfare Sharia Al-Mu’izz Li-Din Allah as well as other parts of downtown are already “daytime pedestrian zones.” Witnessing their success, Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif drove a process of expanding these pedestrian zones and asked the country’s housing ministry to generate a plan for remaking downtown for pedestrians. “[Initial] plans include building multi-story underground garages outside of the center city so people can ‘park and ride’ into downtown on streetcars, encouraging the establishment of open-air restaurants and other venues, and turning old government buildings into museums, hotels, and art galleries.” Fast Company adds that revitalization plans also include “landscaping […] and forcing people to walk or take public transit into the city center.”

The areas targeted for improved street design may benefit tourists more than local residents though. TreeHugger writes: “Some concerns have been expressed that the focus on creating a historical tourist area full of restaurants and museums could lead to downtown becoming the exclusive province of wealthy Egyptians and foreigners.” Local blogger The Boursa Exchange also said: “We hope the redevelopment plan, when implemented, creates an open space accessible to all of Cairo’s residents. While we enjoy al-Azhar Park (see an earlier post on the park), we sometimes rue the fact that it is almost exclusively the preserve of foreigners, relatively well-to-do locals and groups of schoolchildren on field trips. We also hope that the new downtown is developed with an eye toward easing pollution, not just by banning cars but also through the creation of an ‘urban lung.'”

Fast Company says car-free central plazas aren’t new phenonema. “Plenty of streets in Copenhagen restrict vehicles. Same story in Siena, Italy, and Freiburg, Germany.” In the United States, Times Square recently became a pedestrian mall (see earlier post). However, these cases still seem rare (or at least we aren’t hearing about them). Also, as Fast Company notes, the pedestrian zone will ban cars, but there is no broader plan yet to reduce vehicle miles traveled (VMT) throughout the city so local air pollution levels as well as the climate impact of cars are expected to remain high.

Read the article

Image credit: Al-Masry Al-Youm

3 thoughts on “Cairo Will Turn Its Downtown into a Pedestrian Plaza

  1. Briana 06/23/2010 / 9:59 am

    In school, I studied abroad in Bonn, Germany. They touted their city center’s pedestrian area as the largest (and maybe it’s just one of the largest) contiguous pedestrian zone in the world. When my class did studies of the pedestrian zone, we learned that it used to be car-dominated. I couldn’t believe that…the area was so pedestrian friendly and welcoming.

    I wonder how much of people’s opposition to creating pedestrian zones is dominated by their sole experience of the places from a car?

  2. Jeff Shimonski 06/23/2010 / 12:15 pm

    Al-Azhar Park and the entity that built it should be given more than a casual “it is only for people that can afford its entrance fee”. This 30 hectare project was a huge and well thought-out undertaking, and speaking of an urban lung, the beautifully landscaped garden was planted with over half million plants that were propagated for this project and skillfully planted where a dump once existed. Three fresh water reservoirs for the city of Cairo, each 80 meters in diameter and 14 meters deep were built underneath the site. This park benefits everyone who lives or visits Cairo.

  3. ERDINC M. ACAR 06/23/2010 / 3:05 pm

    The equıvalent for Caıro s downtown ped area would be the Central park New York.Has been there for 120 years and many decades to come.It was orıgınally the campıng ground for local natıve ındıans for 1000 years.The ancıent
    settlements had the reputatıon for perfect aır cırculatıon.
    Dıseases would not profılıate when aır cırculatıon propertıes are hıgh.

    Landscape Archıtect Erdınc Acar

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