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  #1  
Old Posted Aug 13, 2020, 8:43 PM
Qubert Qubert is offline
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Walkability in China

For those who have been to or even lived in some of the major cities in China, what is the walkability scene like there? China has always fascinated me on this issue because on one hand you'd think walkability would be a no-brainer when you factor in density, large scale high-rise construction and the amount of subway building being done. On the other hand, pictures I've seen of many urban districts feature wide boulevards, often LeCorbusier-esque "towers in a park" design and shopping malls.

So when one is on the ground, which reality seems to hold more sway? How do the planning authorities there view urbanism?
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Old Posted Aug 13, 2020, 9:25 PM
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Most major cities in China are very walkable. There's also a lot of people on bicycles, scooters, and people that ride the buses or trains.

For the areas where there are wide boulevards, you mostly see people riding scooters or buses, but there are a decent of people that drive cars too.

Guangzhou (my photos)







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Old Posted Aug 13, 2020, 9:53 PM
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walkability in china is influenced organically by the fact that until very recently the vast majority of people could not afford an automobile.

as such there are worn walking paths and things like this everywhere, even along expressways. i’ve witnessed the shoulders of expressways being cleaned by women with handmade brooms.

the countryside is also pretty walkable.

furthermore you see this walkability coming into conflict with “modernity” in much in same way i imagined it did in the u.s. i can see it getting wholesale erased more and more as both an afterthought and a signal of wealth.
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Old Posted Aug 14, 2020, 12:04 PM
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Agreed with the sentiments above based on my travels.

One city I found to be really unwalkable in parts--even in the city center--was Beijing (I was there summer 2008). Insanely long blocks, sidewalks/roads so wide you felt kind of isolated, just immense stretches of distance between areas. Ended up being my favorite city in China though, ironically.
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Old Posted Aug 14, 2020, 12:52 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by destroycreate View Post
Agreed with the sentiments above based on my travels.

One city I found to be really unwalkable in parts--even in the city center--was Beijing (I was there summer 2008). Insanely long blocks, sidewalks/roads so wide you felt kind of isolated, just immense stretches of distance between areas. Ended up being my favorite city in China though, ironically.
Why did Beijing end up being your favorite city in China? I am curious!
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Old Posted Aug 14, 2020, 2:32 PM
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Beijing is weird, a very un-Chinese city -it's much more Soviet, but in am impressive, inhumanly scaled way -it's not even very popular with Chinese to live there, though great to visit.
The traditional Chinese streetlife is notably missing unless you enter the hutongs, though they've now added big pedestrian strips to the shopping areas and Old City, such as Qianmen.
It's still very dense, but spacious too, and feels very 'big'.

Beijing back in the day (70s to 90s) made a big mistake in building its growth on a more autocentric US model, in contrast to other cities such as Shanghai.
Fast forward to today and Beijing has 8 ringroads, endless traffic, smog and millions more cars than its sisters.







Its saving grace are the thousands of hutongs and the world's largest metro system




Last edited by muppet; Aug 14, 2020 at 2:50 PM.
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Old Posted Aug 14, 2020, 2:40 PM
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Yeah, Beijing feels very Soviet, and therefore pedestrian hostile, even though, on the surface, one would think otherwise.

Soviet-type cities are just bad for walking. Moscow, on paper, would seem to be a walker's paradise. Moscow is essentially 100% multifamily, something no major Western city can claim. Moscow has some of the highest transit ridership on the planet. It has low auto ownership, is relatively poor still, extremely dense, and no Western-style sprawl. It has fascinating history and epic monuments.

Yet it's one of the most unpleasant walking cities I've ever encountered, with its massive roadways, gigantic blocks, blank walls, oppressive setbacks, etc. You only walk there because you have to. The ring roads are hellscapes.
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Old Posted Aug 14, 2020, 7:42 PM
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I think I liked Beijing preceisely for the beautiful Hutongs and the fact that it was very pretty when we were there -- it was the summer of the Olympics, so the gov't did a great job putting immaculate landscaping everywhere (including flowers alongside the highways), reducing pollution, and the city was spotless. It had a lot of cute, cozy neighborhoods between the awful Soviet-scaled boulevards and seemed less frenetic and pleasant than Shanghai/HK which I like for their own reasons. There seemed to be a lot less of the ultra-lux glam/mall culture that seems to be pervade most major Asian cities (all the Louis Vuitton and Gucci stores).
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Old Posted Aug 15, 2020, 2:26 AM
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Pretty much any town and city you go to in China will be walkable, even the countryside is walkable as houses and towns are all close together.
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Old Posted Aug 15, 2020, 3:40 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by muppet View Post
Its saving grace are the thousands of hutongs and the world's largest metro system



Beijing is a disaster on foot and in a car. It's an awesome city though. Never had a bad time there.

About those network of hutongs, they're almost all gone. The city has been chipping away at them for the last couple of decades, and started to really wreck havoc on them in POST 2008 Olympics. So many cool spots that I loved to go to are razed. Some buildings still exist, but that awesome otherworldly feeling of getting lost in a hutong district is gone.
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Old Posted Aug 15, 2020, 6:27 AM
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Yep, the mindless destruction of the lanes that were once as 'fine and numerous as the hairs on a cow' since 1950 has been terrible. About 4,550 remain, and about 1,000 of them retain historic value and are protected.

Recently many have been restored in a vast (and brutal) blitz since 2012, with mass renewals from 2015.

By the 21st Century many of them were unrecognisable as old due to the add-ons, slum and shopfront building. What were once elegant, garrulous middle class homes, extended for single families had been subdivided to the point of an average 1sq metre of living space per Beijing resident by the 1990s, as several families shared each complex.

However this crowded density ensured a blooming of the famed Chinese streetlife, where life was lived outdoors from eating and washing to haircuts and socialising, to the Beijinger's love of games and gaming.



https://cdn.shortpixel.ai/spai/q_glo...011-54_new.jpg


www.tripchinaguide.com, www.nyt.com



However, then along came the teenies. The city did several surveys and found the majority of buildings had been added since the 1950s.
They then banned shops, but kept the add-ons, though plonking on the stylised ornate roofs and murals to incorporate them into the older structure.


Before -1900s courtyard houses delineated wings for different/ new family members:



You each got your own house delineated from your fam but united by courtyards and communal eating



But the courtyards had been increasingly filled in by the late 20th Century, with the wings populated by entire families


https://www.alamy.com/stock-photo-pe...129371255.html



After, rather than demolish housing for thousands, the add-ons were incorporated into the old in the restoration process:


www.roamchina.com, https://s.wsj.net

https://i.dailymail.co.uk


And the lane fronts restored

Before


www.travel-pictures-gallery.com


After -it's been brutal on local business. Hole-in-the-wall shops and stalls have been banned.


https://cdn.cnn.com

https://chinatour.net, www.chinadiscovery.com


Though main shopping streets remain


http://www.roamchina.com/attractions...ttraction_id=7

https://kikbb.com, www.absolutechinatours.com


Many have now reverted to the middle class homes they originally were. The add-ons have become part of the tradition.










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Last edited by muppet; Aug 15, 2020 at 8:55 AM.
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Old Posted Aug 15, 2020, 1:01 PM
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Good job again, Muppet. Thanks!
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Old Posted Aug 15, 2020, 1:32 PM
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I wonder why the Chinese seem to always want to destroy all things historical? Seems to be a vast lack of appreciation.
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Old Posted Aug 15, 2020, 3:08 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by destroycreate View Post
I wonder why the Chinese seem to always want to destroy all things historical? Seems to be a vast lack of appreciation.
i mean...the u.s. went down the same path. it’s just supercharged in china.

with the same authority the u.s. would have undoubtedly done it even more.
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Old Posted Aug 15, 2020, 3:33 PM
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I think every authority given the funds and cultural impetus will attempt the sweeping change, just like the Victorians before them, sweeping away the medieval 'slums' or the Neoclassicals plastering over the baroque 'gaudiness' of their palaces.

Luckily central Paris missed out on Le Courbousier's Voisin Plan



Likewise, London's Piccadilly Circus and Covent Garden districts narrowly missed the similar fates




The problem with China (and US) they had the funds or the manpower to make these plans reality.
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Old Posted Aug 15, 2020, 8:00 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by destroycreate View Post
I wonder why the Chinese seem to always want to destroy all things historical? Seems to be a vast lack of appreciation.
Maybe one of the issue is the lack of height in those old building.
Most are single floor. It means that to house a lot of people and activities, people have to be in very cramped situation (what was the case in the past) or you house less.

Old buildings in large European city centers are taller and thus maybe more adapted to a "more modern world" where people need some comfort (some separation between different activities).
It easier when buildings have several floors.

If Central Paris or Central London were mainly made of just one floor buildings, those would have be demolished.
Well actually, this happened except that it was in the 16th, 17th, 18th, 19th (and it still continues)
Very few remains of Middle Ages Paris and London except for some major buildings.

Another issue is the width of the streets. While nice in a limited scale, it become difficult when several sq km are made of streets were vehicules cannot fit.
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Old Posted Aug 15, 2020, 8:53 PM
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With a peak of 1.4 billion Chinese (now shrinking), I would hope that at this point, some of their built environment is walkable.

Walkable or not, given their history and current trajectory, I have no desire to visit any Chinese city. Hong Kong and Taipei, yes. Beijing and Shanghai, no. I'd rather spend my money and go see Tokyo, Manila, Seoul, Ho Chi Minh and Singapore.
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Old Posted Aug 15, 2020, 9:36 PM
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I will never visit China (otherwise known as west North Korea, dear leader Xi in charge)

Too bad , they have some interesting cities . Taiwan and Singapore are great though
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Old Posted Aug 15, 2020, 9:50 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Minato Ku View Post
Maybe one of the issue is the lack of height in those old building.
Most are single floor. It means that to house a lot of people and activities, people have to be in very cramped situation (what was the case in the past) or you house less.

Old buildings in large European city centers are taller and thus maybe more adapted to a "more modern world" where people need some comfort (some separation between different activities).
It easier when buildings have several floors.

If Central Paris or Central London were mainly made of just one floor buildings, those would have be demolished.
Well actually, this happened except that it was in the 16th, 17th, 18th, 19th (and it still continues)
Very few remains of Middle Ages Paris and London except for some major buildings.

Another issue is the width of the streets. While nice in a limited scale, it become difficult when several sq km are made of streets were vehicules cannot fit.
Yep there was a height limit throughout Chinese history for housing not to be taller than the bases of the palaces (other than imperial buildings, fortified walls, civic buildings, temples, monasteries and pagodas), although of course there were exceptions such as old Hangzhou, where buildings were up to 12 storeys as a norm due to the constriction of what was then the worlds largest city but hemmed in by the lake.

In reality lowrise (and wood, which flexes during tremors) was popular due to the earthquake and typhoon zones that much of the country fell in. The exceptions were Tibet which was feudal (watchtowers for the rich), thick walls for the cold, height to defend from attack.


www.easytourchina.com




The semi-nomadic Hakka people also built multi-storey in massive troupe villages, to defend against wherever they settled



www.synotrip.com

https://www.oddcities.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Fujian-Tulou.jpg[/img]




The other thing is that the period where the rest of the world was opening up to multi-storey building, notably the 19th and 20th Centuries were a time of continuous war for China, that for near 150 years took out 100 million lives and 700 cities.

You get glimpses as to what the world's once-richest countries might've been had it been not for the turbulent history, in the period shortly after the warring. -The civic building designed and built by natives for a few decades before modernism laid waste to the expense. I do wonder what entire cities would have looked like if they had the chance to build like this en masse, rather than one or two:







India the same, suffered greatly during the 18th and 19th Century under the Raj and wars of the Mughals. Perhaps more of what the country would have looked like if it's massive economy hadn't tanked for 300 years.




https://images.financialexpress.com


www.tajhotels.com

Last edited by muppet; Aug 15, 2020 at 10:34 PM.
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Old Posted Aug 15, 2020, 10:06 PM
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I will never visit China (otherwise known as west North Korea, dear leader Xi in charge)

Too bad , they have some interesting cities . Taiwan and Singapore are great though
More spammy pictures since your post, within the last hour.
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