With restrictions easing, Guangzhou residents flock to streets and parks
Life in Chinese cities is gradually returning to pre-COVID-19 conditions, with traffic jams during peak hours and transit ridership back to 70% of previous demand. With temperatures rising and a recent spell of good weather, residents of Guangzhou have started returning to the city’s parks and public spaces. During the 1 May Worker’s Day holiday, citizens of Guangzhou enjoyed the newly opened Cloud Pathway, an 8 kilometer pedestrian walkway that connects several popular parks and landmarks in the center of the city.
From mountain to historic center
A beautiful panorama of Guangzhou can be witnessed from atop the centrally located Baiyun (‘white cloud’) Mountain. Now, a new pedestrian walkway connects the mountain to the historic city center at Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall. The Cloud Pathway was constructed in six months and links up some of Guangzhou’s most iconic sights, like Yuexiu Park, Huaguoshan Park, Sculpture Park, Luhu Lake Park, and Yuntai Flower Park. The trail, three to five meters wide at different parts, follows existing pathways through parks, combined with newly-built elevated skywalks. The pathway is fully continuous. Along the route, trees, plants and flowers have been planted, and toilets, maps, trash bins and vending machines have been constructed. Ramps for wheelchairs and strollers are available at inclines, and CCTV cameras operate for public safety. The Pathway can be accessed by bus, metro, and cycle. There are two metro lines that connect to the trail as well as numerous bus routes. Bike share stations are plentiful, but cycling is not permitted along the trail. The Cloud Pathway offers a pleasant and interesting walk with some spectacular views. Besides a leisure function, the pathway also benefits local residents living nearby, through shorter and safer connections to their destinations.
Temporary COVID-19 measures
To curb the spread of COVID-19, temporary measures for accessing the Cloud Pathway are put in place. Access is restricted to five locations, where city officials take temperatures and check for protective masks. An online reservation with name and passport number is required to limit the number of visitors to 4,000 per hour. The opening hours are limited from 9am to 6pm. From social media posts, the public seems to engage very positively with the pathway. People commented on how nice it was to have a scenic walk to take after so much time at home and how people would like more of these parks, but also cycle paths along the same route. The pathway runs along other planned projects. The city plans to upgrade a very large garden along the pathway to attract tourists. The Guangzhou Transport Bureau is collecting feedback from professionals and the public for further improvements to the Cloud Pathway. Inputs will also be used for the completion of the last 1.8km from Luhu Park to Baiyun Mountain, which is planned for opening in mid-2020. ITDP China is providing feedback aimed at improving existing amenities such as wayfinding, and adding public seating, pavillions, lighting and measures to protect against sun and rain.
Improvements to walking and cycling in Guangzhou
In recent years, Guangzhou’s city government has prioritized the improvement of facilities for pedestrians and cyclists. ITDP has worked closely with Guangzhou to support non motorized transit, walking, and cycling. This is another project inspired by the popularity of pedestrian infrastructure in Guangzhou. In 2017, in consultation with ITDP China, a street renaissance program was initiated that spurred dozens of projects with people-centered designs that prioritize walking and cycling. ITDP China has been deeply involved with local design institutes in the implementation of Complete Street designs, focused around intersection improvements for pedestrians, traffic calming, lane narrowing, public space design, landscaping and materials, pocket parks, and more.
This opening and scale demonstrate a public thirst for outdoor spaces, and an enthusiasm to participate in public life after such a long time inside.
Brief interview with Ms. Huang on 21 May 2020:
“The Cloud Pathway is a great place to visit to enjoy views of Guangzhou. In the middle of the city there are still places as quiet as this. Beautiful flowers can be seen, and I found many birds in the trees. It is a great escape from the city and there is no danger of traffic along the way. There should be more shade and places to rest along the way since the trail goes up and down. Also it is inconvenient to wear a mask in this heat, but we must for everyone’s protection!”
Brief interview with Mr. Chen on 21 May 2020:
“With our family we tried to stay home as much as possible since COVID-19 started. In the past couple of months, the situation has improved and we go out more again. This is our third time coming here. I feel free, like a bird flying over the city. The city is spending a lot of effort improving the environment. There are many places to go and I feel very comfortable.”