The weather changed yesterday morning, turning cool, even a bit chilly. And a brisk walk seemed like just the right thing to do. I walked a section of my tram ride to the University today, from Port Choissee to Maries Bastie on Rue Massena, in the 13th Arrondisement of the city. This is not a neighbourhood that the tourist books and blogs write about but it’s bustling nevertheless. It’s clearly an area where many immigrants have settled, especially Asians. Vietnamese and Laotian restaurants line the streets.
There’s plenty of relatively new high rise affordable and mid-income housing that has come up in this area, amid what look like older mid sized blocks. Mostly these blocks emerge right off the street, with the ground level space accommodating shops, supermarkets and parking garages. Now and then I see what look like gated enclaves, some with nice little gardens inside. But I can see all of these from the street. There are no solid boundary walls, only see through fences. Eyes on the street all the way!
It’s a totally walkable area and well connected with public transport like all of Paris. In fact, the tramway runs in the centre, two lanes of motorable road on either side, a lane of parallel on street parking, cycle paths and a wide pavement on both sides. Definitely more square metre area for public transport, cycling and walking than for motorised traffic!
I’ve been watching these sights from the tram the past week but walking down the street today made me realise that these kind of neighbourhoods are an excellent case study for how modern redevelopment projects can build on the positive aspects of traditional cities by retaining and even enhancing public facilities like public space, schools, markets and sports grounds. In this way, the neighbourhood can cater to additional densities and remain efficient and compact, improving life for the able bodied and differently abled, young and old. The sheer diversity of people I encounter everyday while riding public transport speaks to this.
Please don’t forget to watch the accompanying video on FB which shows boundary details of the apartment blocks and how they relate to the street. Link below
Back in Dwarka to pick up cousin and niece for a mall crawl today, I saw up close and front the swank, new electric rikshas that are plying in Dwarka sub-city now. Attractively designed, 25 such rikshas are already operational and 250 more are to be on the roads by March. A riksha owner has to pay Rs 100 per day to own the Rs 72000 vehicle in a three-year period. The rikshas are fitted with a rechargeable battery, that runs 70-80 kilometres on full charge and offer a speed of upto 30 km per hour.
I am a little uncertain though, whether these are the same as the ‘Solekshaws’ that the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CISR) unveiled last year. That model has a motor powered by a solar powered battery, which is intended to to be recharged at solar stations for a nominal fee. The riksha puller can also pedal those, and I saw the Dwarka ones being pedaled as well as driven on battery. Am curious to find out how the Dwarka riksha batteries get recharged. From what media reports I found, the initiative is part of a self-employment programme run by the state BJP. There seems to be a tie-up with battery providers for recharging.
Will have my Dwarka cousins inform me if more of these arrive in March and do some first-hand interviews to answer the above questions!