August 28 2013

Is Astana, Kazakhstan Pedestrian Friendly?

Pedestrian safety is one of the main determinants for walkabilty.

Astana’s government has incorporated pedestrian-friendly mechanisms into the city’s transportation network. On Turan Avenue for example, with the push of a button, pedestrians can instantaneously stop traffic barrelling down the four-lane thoroughfare. Displays appear and count the number of seconds that pedestrians have to cross. Some crosswalks have embedded, illuminated, and intermittent lights, while all have visible signs.

A Standard Crosswalk in Astana

That said, design and engineering flaws, combined with motorist habits, reduce pedestrian safety in Astana. Typically, pedestrians only have about thirty seconds to proceed through a crosswalk. On secondary roadways, most crosswalks do not have lights, and while vehicles will slow to permit pedestrians to cross, they rarely come to a complete stop. For this reason it is quite common to see pedestrians walk out in front of moving traffic (this can be somewhat nerve-racking for foreigners).

A related problem is the rate at which vehicles drive through parking lots. To avoid rush hour congestion, drivers often cut through lots, honking to let pedestrians know that they have no intention of braking. This can be quite dangerous as pedestrians often walk through lots when the parallel sidewalks are narrow or non-existent.

Furthermore, the speed at which vehicles enter and exit parking spaces is worrisome. In some high-rise apartment complexes, lots stand between residential buildings and the complex’s playground, soccer green, or basketball court. Children are often inclined to play in the lots, as well as in the designated play areas – balls often roll out into the lots, and bicycles are sometimes left lying about. The use of a parking lot as a playground creates an increase in the chance of conflict for a collision between a vehicle and a child, and a back-up type accident in particular.

A lot and playground at an apartment complex in Astana

As Astana develops it will surely take action to address these systemic and habitual problems. How has your city improved pedestrian safety? What recommendations do you have for Astana? What are some regulation-based and education-based solutions? Comment here or on Twitter! Share on Facebook!

Credits: Photographs by Sunny Menozzi. Data linked to sources.

Sunny Menozzi

Sunny Menozzi's military duties have taken her to diverse and exciting places, from Singapore to Arizona, South Korea to Afghanistan, and North Carolina to Hawaii. Sunny's travels inspired her interest in cities, especially how they function, the impact of the built environment on the residents, the methods planners employ to shape natural features, and the vibrancy that can be cultivated by good planning and design. She will begin her pursuit of a master's degree at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the fall of 2013. Sunny plans to focus on reuse and historic preservation, community-building, and economic and environmental sustainability. She hopes to contribute to projects that repurpose military bases. An avid runner, Sunny is interested in the design of recreational trails and policies that encourage the development of walkable communities. She holds a B.S. in International Relations and Russian from the United States Military Academy at West Point.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, August 28th, 2013 at 9:28 am and is filed under Transportation, Urban Planning and Design. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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One Response to “Is Astana, Kazakhstan Pedestrian Friendly?”

  1. Michael Says:

    I just visited Kazakhstan for the first time, and having visited more than 90 countries, I can honestly say that Almaty is easily one of the two or three most pedestrian-friendly countries in the world. There are well-engineered, well-maintained sidewalks on virtually every street and suburban thoroughfare, and traffic in both directions comes to an immediate stop as you approach any crosswalk. In total I walked more than 100 kilometers in Almaty and environs, and the quality of the sidewalks as well as the considerateness of drivers was extremely consistent. The only place that could possibly compare would be parts of Switzerland and Germany, although I would argue that the pedestrian experience in Almaty is typically less stressful than those two countries.

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