This opinion piece in a local Dubai newspaper says that Dubai needs moer than towers to be pedestrian friendly.

The biggest problem with rows of towers is the absence of life where buildings meet the street, the only part of these structures that exists on a human scale.Without cafes, small shops and restaurants, streets lined only with tall towers can be foreboding, ugly, even dangerous. Many cities have at least one central area made up primarily of towers, and the dynamics are always the same. The offices in these towers bring people to the streets during the day, but almost all of them disappear in the evenings. Without any pedestrians at night, these streets can become places for illicit activity – vandalism, harassment or, in some cases, drug use.

People need reasons to be in the city, whether it’s to shop, eat or sit. The presence of small businesses at the ground level of tall towers has a humanising effect on the streetscape. It extends the hours of activity: an otherwise underused pavement can become lively, a destination even, if executed well.

The absence of street life in large parts of Abu Dhabi and Dubai is a result of the rush to build….It could be argued that both Dubai and Abu Dhabi have developed too quickly, and according to how planners thought cities ought to look, not how they ought to function….The excessive heat is often cited as an argument against creating more exciting outdoor businesses and other spaces, but it doesn’t hold water: for more than half the year we have the kind of weather that most cold-climate people envy.

Shenzhen is often compared to Dubai, and here, setting skyscrapers back from the street and pushing retail into  shopping malls also creates lifeless spaces. The beautiful plazas for those skyscrapers set back from the street often end up as ugly parking lots.

A different commentary on Dubai’s shaky economic and urban planning and what has happened since the financial crisis:

Between the malls, there is nothing but the connecting tissue of asphalt. Every road has at least four lanes; Dubai feels like a motorway punctuated by shopping centres. You only walk anywhere if you are suicidal. The residents of Dubai flit from mall to mall by car or taxis.

Dubai is not just a city living beyond its financial means; it is living beyond its ecological means.

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