Design and planning for accessibility: lessons from Abu Dhabi and Dubai’s neighborhoods

Khaled Alawadi, Sahar Khaleel, Ouafa Benkraouda

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Although Abu Dhabi and Dubai have similar political and planning systems, the two cities’ neighborhoods feature different morphological layouts. Over the course of their formal progression, these neighborhoods have experienced erratic changes in pedestrian accessibility. This study uses traditional methods of cartography and land use mapping coupled with quantitative methods of network analysis (UNA) to analyze the physical design elements that contribute to neighborhood accessibility in each city. Spatial and quantitative analyses reveal that planning practices in both cities achieved their highest accessibility levels in earlier neighborhoods. Since the 1980s, with the emergence of automobile-oriented developments, the two cities have failed to build pedestrian-accessible and connected neighborhoods. While Dubai has stayed with the same planning system since that time, Abu Dhabi in the 2010s reformed its planning system by embracing higher density and more interconnected streets, yet these measures have not resulted in increased accessibility. The study demonstrates that pedestrian accessibility results from an effective interplay between street design, parcel sizes, and land use density and distribution. The paper concludes by calling for the return to old physical ideals of local neighborhood planning.

Original languageBritish English
Pages (from-to)487-520
Number of pages34
JournalJournal of Housing and the Built Environment
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2021


  • Abu Dhabi
  • Accessibility
  • Dubai
  • Neighborhoods
  • Urban form
  • Urban network analysis


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