Urban greenways planning. A vision plan for Milan (Italy)



Publication Date



Greenways are “green infrastructure” to link people and places (Fabos, 1995) and can be planned at different scales (from national to municipal) and for multiple purposes, “including ecological, recreational, cultural, aesthetic” (Ahern, 1995), “to provide people with access to open spaces close to where they live” (President's Commission on Americans Outdoors, 1987), in order to “enhance both the environment and quality of life” (European Greenways Association, 2000).

At the municipal scale, the urban greenways network can help to reshape the city, making it more livable; urban greenways represent “at once the parks for the 21st century and a part of the transportation infrastructure, providing for pleasant, efficient, healthful and environmentally-sound travel by foot, bicycle or skates” (New York City Department of City Planning, 1993).

Turner (2006) reported the results of a research conducted in 2001 among the British local authorities, in which come out the different purpose of urban greenway planning: creating a coherent (green) network of public open spaces, creating a green transport network that confers a vital new use on public open spaces, contributing to the reintegration of planning for ‘town’ and ‘country’ in order to serve the needs of a new urban population seeking active recreation in the countryside.

The most important benefits of greenways in urban areas are environmental protection, recreation, and alternative transportation. These benefits cannot be realized unless the greenway planners take a systematic approach to the delineation of greenway paths (Conine et al., 2004).

Various methodologies for greenways planning that take into account the many factors in a cohesive manner have been developed for and successfully applied, such as those described in Flink and Searns (1993), Smith and Hellmund (1993), Fabos (1995), Tzolova (1995), Xiang (1996), Toccolini et al. (2004), Ribeiro and Barao (2006) and Toccolini et al. (2006).

In the present study three significant experiences were analyzed more in depth: New York City (New York City Department of City Planning, 1993), Vancouver (City of Vancouver, 1995) and Brussels (Institut Bruxellois pour la Gestion de l’Environnement, 2001).

There has always been a strong link between the city of New York and the Greenways; as a matter of fact it is right here where it was first conceived the first plan of the modern age concerning a network of urban greenways (in 1866, with the Parkways designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux). Over the years, the great metropolis has preserved this link and recently this link has led to a plan of Greenways for the city. The plan was proposed in 1993 by NYC Department of City Planning. The plan states that “greenways would be a system of bicycle-pedestrian pathways along natural and manmade linear spaces such as rail and highway rightsof- way, river corridors, waterfront spaces, parklands and, where necessary, city streets. They are at once the parks for the 21st century and a part of the transportation infrastructure, providing for pleasant, efficient, healthful and environmentally-sound travel by foot, bicycle or skates”.

The plan concerns a system of about 570 km of greenways designed to create new opportunities from a recreational point of view, increase the mobility of cyclists and pedestrians and generally speaking was created to enhance the quality of life of NY citizens. The network of greenways brings advantages in many fields, such as citizens health, transportation, socializing development and recreational aspects. As a matter of fact, the plan for NY wants greenways to accomplish different tasks:

⎯ build new spaces that are easily reachable from home and work, through which it is possible to explore and appreciate the different metropolitan environments;

⎯ offer recreational advantages (sunbathing, staying outdoors, admiring the landscape, relax, getting in touch with nature, etc.);

⎯ improve people health (physical activities, outdoor sports);

⎯ provide an alternative, completion and integration with traditional means of transportation; ⎯ provide the possibility to decrease traffic and urban pollution;

⎯ build natural “buffer zones” to separate areas with different functions (residential areas, commercial areas, etc.);

⎯ represent a meeting place to socialize with other people.