Walkability in Urban India

Designing Cool Pockets for Pedestrian Thermal Comfort

Walkability is a measure of how friendly and welcoming neighbourhoods are to pedestrians. Walkability in urban cities is influenced by planning and environmental parameters. People who desire to walk for transport, recreation or health benefits are often faced with challenges such as lack of infrastructure, noise, safety concerns and thermal comfort. Improved walkability creates a shift towards active travel becoming a preferred mode of transport. This shift contributes to better health, an enhanced sense of space, and improved air quality.

Bangalore, a city considered as the Silicon Valley of India, has undergone swift growth in the last three decades. With Rapid urbanization, Bangalore faces severe effects of climate change. The city has a population of 12.3 million, making it the third most populated city in India. Pedestrians constitute 23% of the population, with people walking for reasons of recreation and transport. This research aims at addressing pedestrian comfort in Bangalore, where uncomfortable summers make walking difficult.

Pedestrian thermal comfort depends on the design of the surrounding space and physiological factors. The discomfort felt by pedestrians varies with the duration of exposure and the build-up of heat stress. For this purpose, it is essential to determine the distance that pedestrians can walk before experiencing discomfort in an outdoor setting.

The approach of this research is to study the thermal discomfort pedestrians experience in the existing scenario and improved conditions. The thermal comfort of pedestrians is analysed during sunshine hours when maximum thermal discomfort is anticipated. As per Universal Thermal Comfort Index (UTCI), in the existing scenario, a pedestrian experiences thermal distress for 43% of sunshine hours. A pedestrian walking at an average speed of 1.4m/s reaches a state of discomfort at 500 meters over a 6-minute duration. By improving the materials of the surrounding built environment and providing shaded walkways, UTCI analysis indicates thermal distress for 9% of sunshine hours. Having improved the surrounding environment, a pedestrian reaches a state of discomfort at 850 meters over 10 minutes.

To enhance neighbourhood walkability, it is vital to design streetscapes conducive to pedestrian needs. Good design provides pedestrians with the option to pick routes that are comfortable and visually pleasing. The outcome of this design process is to create “cool pockets” where people can pause, cool-down in the shade and continue walking to their destination. In this research, the study of time defines the spacing of “cool pockets” in urban neighbourhoods.

Mentor: Tommaso Bitossi

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Pallavi Chidambaranath – India

Pallavi Chidambaranath – India

Pallavi holds a Bachelors in Architecture from Manipal School of Architecture and Planning, and has completed her Masters in Planning at the School of Planning and Architecture, New, Delhi, India. She has worked as an architect at Auroville Design Consultants, and as an Associate Architect at Integrated Design, India.