In recent years, cities across the world have rehabilitated swathes of brownfield to create green areas for pedestrians.
Urban regeneration, i.e. the initiative to recover brownfield sites within the consolidated city, is today a prevailing trend in international urban development. A primary focus of this urban trend is to create more friendly and liveable environments for the citizen, without extending the limits of the cities. One of the resources used to achieve this purpose is linear parks built over currently underused spaces and routes in urban centres.
Cities across the world have created dozens of linear parks on brownfield sites that had previously been occupied by railway tracks or quays. Although these infrastructures acted as a barrier between neighbourhoods, they also have tremendous potential as new parks for walking or cycling.
The factors involved in these green area projects are varied since no two cities are the same. However, despite their diversity, most linear parks have a few things in common; namely, their ability to (1) connect previously separated neighbourhoods, (2) structure the city and create a backbone for pedestrians and cyclists, and (3) create green spaces in the heart of the areas to be developed.
An idea making a strong comeback
Linear parks are nothing new. Since the 19th century, several European cities have built boulevards over the old walls that surrounded its urban perimeters. This is the case of boulevards in Paris, Vienna’s Ringstrasse and, even, the now-extinct historic boulevards that ringed the heart of Madrid.
Although linear parks have existed for over a century, cities across the world have experienced an overall decline in the quality of pedestrian spaces since the 1950s, with cars becoming ever more prevalent in the urban centres.
Fortunately, that trend has been reversed in recent years, and the presence of pedestrians in cities has again gained prominence.
National and international linear parks
Spain boasts excellent linear parks that have noticeably transformed the urban areas in which they have been implemented. The Jardín del Turia is an emblematic example of this. Following a severe flood in the 1980s, 10 kilometres of the former bed of the River Turia was diverted to create a large urban park in the city of Valencia. Other representative projects are Madrid Rio, which restored seven kilometres of land along the River Manzanares after the undergrounding of the southwestern section of the M-30 ring road, or the famous Abandoibarra Avenue in Bilbao, which catalysed the transformation of the entire city.
In line with this urban trend, Madrid Nuevo Norte has sought to realise its societal and environmental benefits, incorporating a 3-kilometre green axis to connect the network of parks in northern Madrid with the natural green lung of the Cuenca Alta del Manzanares Regional Park. The park, which will run north to south, is a crucial project to restore heavily degraded land and interconnect the neighbourhoods of northern Madrid.