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    Monday, July 5, 2010

    RANT - Urban Shmurban..

    According to the Oxford dictionary

    pedestrian |pəˈdestrēən|
    a person walking along a road or in a developed area.
    According to Saudi Arabia..

    There's no such thing..

    We blame it on the weather, when it's just our favorite cost-effective approach.. Lazy urban design (Assuming such a word exists in our dictionary)

    In Saudi Arabia, there's no such thing as outdoor human contact.. There's outdoor headlight contact.. Maybe some Bumper to Bumper salutes.. Hazard lights, right and left signals, and a honk.. We're more familiar with each other's license plates than we are familiar with each other facial expressions..

    Most of us don't even walk to work.. Just saying the word "Walk" might dehydrate any average Saudi, and god forbid, lose those almost spherical bellies..

    Now why is that?
    • It might be because of cheap oil, thus, the need to walk and not use a car is ridiculed.. (However, cheap oil does not necessarily mean cheap cars :) )

    • It might be because we know nothing of the environment, or choose to ignore it, since Judgement day is coming, so why bother.. (How we love to use that as a coat hanger answer to any "what will you do about this" concerns)

    • Maybe, JUST MAYBE, the city is designed in a way that is both disrespectful to any urban design principle and/or basic human logic..

    The generic Saudi city is laid out in a way where it's impossible to go from Point A to Point B without being run over by a speeding truck (which happen to be heading to Point C).. Since Point A's are always asphalt-separated from all of our Point B's with major streets, organic intersections, little-to-no walking areas or bridges, and highways (which happen to host our valued never-slower-than-110 Km/h citizens who drive to the rescue of an imaginary Point D that is being salvaged by wild beasts, hypothetically)

    It's hard to believe how our cities turned into urban-hellholes..

    It's recorded in history.. Back in the days of the early human beings on this peninsula (around 1970 AD), it was one of our ancestral concerns to think about those "pedestrians" and build enough bridges and dedicated walkways for those who felt like walking to work, or just walk..

    Nowadays, those bridges are still intact around the old parts of the city, never maintained, and mainly used as billboard holders..

    (pop quiz : Count the ratio between the number of 1970's wooden bridges and Modern Day steel bridges in any city, win a new Honda)

    It's the norm now.. Walking is restrained to moving around fenced empty plots of land, where you can enjoy a quick jog in the early morning, taking a whiff of that industrial breeze, as cars break the barrier of sound in the surrounding streets..

    Or a whiff of those little white flowers..

    Have you ever stopped one day, felt romantic, picked a flower, and smelled that thing? Its worse than a summer-course gym sock.. Yes, organic gym socks.. Assuming you won't develop a sudden case of psychedelic brain trauma just trying to take another sniff..

    City Beautifications? Why bother spend that extra riyal or two for such a thing? why not invest all of it in building even more streets that connect those ugly-elongated city layouts of ours?

    Or maintaining/developing those urban focal points? Malls!! Our cities sprawl towards commercial parts of the city.. Mall-motivated urban sprawls, that's my next topic..

    We don't have to build streets for human usage, we just slap a truck-full of asphalt to any horizontal plane, put some fancy white stripes, stick a Prince's name to it, and there you go.. A street..

    Why walk when we're basking in the shade of such glorious times?

    What's Shade? i think i saw it twice by accident..

    Our cities are designed to be seen, felt and loved from the comfort of our cars, through our living room windows, and fake-to-downright-hilarous wiki articles (please, spare the time to read about Jeddah on Wikipedia)

    Why suffer the heat when you can suck on recycled air? << the new motto of the muncipality

    Why care for such silly elements as shading devices, pedestrian crossing zones, vegetation to shade ratios, and all that arid climatic academic and practical bullcrap?

    It's easier, and much more cost-effective, to ignore.. And you get to keep all that money King Abdullah is giving away to us ministries.. Yay..

    Want to walk because you can't afford a car? Ride in one of our vintage public transportation buses.. You know, those little red and white coffins with wheels that even Toyota forgot it ever built? Yeah, those.. Or just put a 50% gamble on your life with our well-trained taxis..

    Like we said, 50 percent!!
    That's allot of percents, if you ask me..

    Want to walk because of this blasphemous thing called "Health"? Are you out of your mind?

    There's a sad average of 3 major parks per city (average population: 4 million), it's not your choice to walk or not.. (case studies were made in Jeddah and Dammam+Khobar, two of the major cities in the kingdom)

    What's pissing me off is not all of this.. It's the fact that trees with healthy foliages that give enough shade rarely exist (because they're rarely maintained) and you can see the healthiness of those trees increase as you approach a Prince's house, or a diplomatic area..

    It's not about putting those trees, smart people in the municipality, it's about watering them to actually live long enough to do a purpose!!

    It's a city, and cities need pedestrians.. Put some of that stacked money into good use and make a logical study on how to achieve that goal..

    And no more of the usual bull you like to hand out in little cheap pamphlets and sponsored newspapers..
    • we're working on that..
    • we worked on that, and it's located right in the middle of no where..
    • we're planning to work on that in the next 5-year plan..

    Yeah, well work on THIS!!
    *censored hang gesture by Disney'O'Vision - Where Bambi's mom is still alive and well*



    1. || Safety Warning ||

      Because of the width constrains of the blog layout, articles may seem longer than they actually are..

    2. Hi there my fellow Jeddawi!

      I keep thinking of this issue almost every single day. while I am waiting in one of the congested traffic lights here in Jeddah. for some time in my student life I did not have a car and I used to walk and use the public transportation for all my needs ( not in Saudi though). The heat and the weather is not THE problem, other countries do have a really harsh weather -FREEZING conditions-, but still they manage through right urban planning to overcome these issues.

      great blog bro!
      Keep it up


    3. Glad to know am not the only one on this.. We should start a support group for anyone emotionally affected by this City :D

      Thanks =)

    4. I think you might'v stumbled across the answer to all our problems in this wonderful country:

      1) Place large fence around city with a number of secured gates.

      2) Build satellite "D destinations" around the city where free mfa6a7at are served around the clock and reruns of people moving leather over grass are projected on any surface bigger than my foot.

      3) Watch the sheep flock out of city.

      4) Lock gates. Man turrets.

      5) Convert empty streets into WWII trenches with complementary shading devices appropriated from now-defunct thoub industry.

      6) Rinse and repeat every few years.

      Your loving son,