Walking, biking, and human-scale cities

Building a walkable, bike-able, and "human-scale" city is an important, but challenging part of creating just and inclusive cities. Sidewalks, bike lanes, pedestrian crossings, parks, and green areas are all pieces of the puzzle, helping citizens use their city safely and sustainably.

These reports from our community managers in Curitiba, Cali, Jakarta, Mumbai, Lagos, and Johannesburg showcase a number of initiatives working to design cities for human scale. Read on to learn more, and then add your thoughts to the discussion in the comments below.

Curitiba
Cali
Jakarta
Mumbai
Lagos
Johannesburg
Catalina Gomez

 
Considerações sobre a cultura verde e de acessibilidade de Curitiba

Catalina Gomez, Coordenadora da Rede em Curitiba

 

O fato que Curitiba seja reconhecida como uma cidade verde, acessível e organizada não é um resultado improvisado, mais é resultado de uma cultura sólida de planejamento urbano e da liderança de suas administrações. Apresentamos alguns dos motivos que ajudam a explicar aquela boa reputação de Curitiba especialmente sobre por que é verde, acessível e "humana"; também apresentamos alguns dos desafios que enfrenta na matéria.

Iniciemos com o tamanho da cidade. Embora Curitiba seja a nona cidade brasileira em termos de população, ela ainda é considerada pequena e compacta com uma densidade populacional de 4300 pessoas por quilometro quadrado. A expansão da cidade tem sido planejada com regulações do uso da terra e por meio de processos graduais de urbanização. Além de seu tamanho pequeno, também ajuda que a cidade tenha uma topografia relativamente plana e um clima moderado.

Um dos temas que Curitiba sobressele acima das cidades Latino-americanas e até muitas de países desenvolvidos são suas áreas verdes. A cidade tem 64 quilômetros quadrados de áreas verdes por pessoa; claramente muito mais além dos 18 quilômetros quadrados por pessoas que as Nações Unidas recomendam como meta para cada cidade. Aquele ótimo indicador é resultado do planejamento dos anos 80 quando Curitiba iniciou a criar e proteger suas áreas verdes. Em 2007, a cidade lançou também um projeto para incentivar proprietários de terras a colocar parques em elas. Aqueles que adotaram o esquema conseguiam a redução de impostos. Os resultados são evidentes: Em 1988 a cidade tenha cinco parques e cinco florestas. Hoje tem 21 parques e 15 florestas, todas elas protegidas pela Secretaria Municipal de Meio Ambiente.

Outra ação importante para Curitiba tem sido a alta prioridade e o investimento nos espaços urbanos. Hoje a cidade mais de 450 praças públicas e mais de 400 pequenos jardins públicos para as pessoas caminhar, praticar esportes e socializar. Somado com um ótimo sistema de transporte público e a criação de ruas exclusivas para pedestres, a cidade é considerada amigável para os pedestres de todas as idades.

Atualmente Curitiba enfrenta problemas com a segurança dos pedestres especialmente devido ao aumento dos acidentes causados por motoristas irresponsáveis. Em resposta a aquela situação, a cidade deu inicio ao projeto Vida no Trânsito que está liderada pela Secretaria Municipal de Trânsito, a Organização Pan-Americana da Saúde e Bloomberg Philanthropies. O projeto esta presente em todas as capitais estaduais brasileiras e tem como objetivo reduzir na metade os acidentes mortais de transito até 2025. A iniciativa promove atividades de prevenção do consumo irresponsável do álcool e do respeito da sinalização viária.

Foto: Secretaria Municipal de Meio Ambiente

 

Comments

These are very great articles that need to catch the attention of policy makers. We are all worried about rising levels of carbon emission yet less attention is paid to bicycles that could be used as alternative transport medium with a bonus of a good exercise. We need to begin sensitizing people on what could be done also at the individual level to lower the destruction of the ozone layer for the survival of mankind.

Olatawura Ladipo-Ajayi's picture

I completely agree Felix, there are various added benefits to having a pedestrian friendly city ranging from safety to health and environmental sustainability and there is the need to increasingly advocate the benefits of walking or biking and doing it safely.

Lagos is seeing an increasing community of bikers and skaters who instead of walking skate around the city, its a bit cumbersome to do this on crowded sidewalks, it would might be worth it to create a bike specific lane which can be used for skaters and cyclists like in Jakarta as that community grows larger in Lagos.

@Widya, regarding the problem of offender who violate the cyclist in lane only rules, how is Jarkart currently dealing with motorbikes who use cyclist lanes? In Lagos concerning the BRT lanes, violators are heavily fined and checked for mental imbalance when caught which they are required to pay for themselves lol.

Jorge Bela's picture

Perhaps the most striking case presented this week is Curitiba. The Brazilian city managed to grow in a planned way, while all other cities haver grown too fast and without a plan. Highways, elevated passes and heavy BRTs have become barriers to pedestrians. The poor are the most affected, as they cannot afford other means of transportation, and they need to walk or bike. Children are put in great danger as well, as we have seen in Mumbay.

Building bike lines is a first step (Bogotá put some bike lanes on sidewalks, and this is not a good solution: bikers, skaters and pedestrians cannot share the same space safely, as Wura points out). But it all must come under a carefully crafted plan, which is precisely the point Tariq makes. The Bulevar del Rio is en excellent example of giving the city back to pedestrians, but still it was implemented as an isolated project, and the plan to integrate it with its adjacent areas was never implemented.

Which brings me back to Curitiba. I wonder how in that city they managed to make a plan and follow it through. Was it just good managment or there were other factor which explain this amazing success?

Jorge I really liked the Bulevar del Rio project. It seems that it is returning space to pedestrians and pride to Cali citizens. Do you know if there are existing efforts to address the challenges you raise about connecting the upgraded area with the city centre? Also I was wondering if the Bulevar is taken care by any specific organization or institution (I mean, who is providing security and maintenance services)?

Carlin Carr's picture

Jorge, I completely agree with you about the amazing success of Curitiba, and I think you hit on an important question. Curitiba seems light years ahead of many of the cities we report from, including Mumbai. Obviously, it shows the success of urban planning when there is a will to do so. Does it have the same municipal structure as other cities? Was any of this powered by a certain personality, such as a powerful mayor, in the last couple of decades? Also, I'm wondering if we can draw any correlations between proper public and green spaces in a city and the poverty rate or quality of life for the poor. Do the poor engage with these spaces as well? Is poverty as big of an issue in this type of city?

widya anggraini's picture

@Wura : at this moment there is no fine for the offender who use the bike lane. Some bike groups have done some advocacy but they are not that solid, unsystematic and have less bargaining position. However, small good news coming from government who starts to fine $100 for cars and $50 for motorbike that use BRT lane. Well, maybe later Jakarta should also consider checking metal imbalance as well, Wura ☺

I also amazed with Curitiba and the fact that the city could grow as it planned make me want to witness by my own eyes. Looking forward hearing Catalina responses as I have similar questions as Jorge and Carlin.

Issue of pedestrian also attracts me as I observed that most of megacities in developing countries provide lack of protection to pedestrians. It’s always needs good political will from government to create safer city. Current governor of Jakarta showed many new initiatives to make Jakarta less chaos by supporting such as bike lane use, parks renovation, improve public transportation and now he is renovate and make new pedestrian lanes.

widya anggraini

What a great discussion! Here are some of the clarifications/thoughts around the Curitiba case:
In terms of administrative/political structure, Curitiba has the same institutional structure as any other Brazilian municipality. It’s not that it has any special feature or capacity that differentiates it from the rest.

In terms of political leadership, Curitiba indeed had a highly recognized mayor who introduced the culture of urban planning in the city. His name is Jaime Lerner, an arquitect and urban planner that was mayor for three periods (1971–75; 1979–84 and 1989–92). This highlights the importance not only of political and technical leadership, but about continuity of efforts.

But although Curitiba is still benefiting from the legacy of Lerner, I must admit that the city has made enormous efforts not to only really on a single person’s leadership, but rather in the powerful tools of planning. That is why the city has one of the most recognized planning institutions in the country called Curitiba’s Urban Planning and Research Institute http://www.ippuc.org.br/default.php

Reacting to Carlin’s point about a possible correlation between the existence of green spaces in a city and the quality of life of its poor populations, I must admit I don’t know if we can imply something like that. But I found some interesting data that made me think about some potential links.

For example, the 2013 Human Development Index, which ranks all 5565 municipalities in Brazil according to three basic measures of quality of living (longevity, education and income) has found that the best capital cities in Brazil in terms of quality of living are: Florianopolis (3rd position within the 5565 municipalities of Brazil) followed by Vitoria (5th position), and then there is Curitiba (10th position). Sao Paulo has the 28th place, Goiania the 45th place and Rio de Janeiro the 46th place.

In terms of green space for all citizens, measured by square meters of green area per person, Goiania has 94m2, being the greenest city in the country. It is followed by Vitoria with 91m2. Curitiba is next with 64m2. Rio follows with 59m2 and Sao Paulo is terribly positioned with only 5m2 per person.

Both Vitoria and Curitiba point to excellent results in both indicators of wellbeing. Hope this clarifies and contributes to the debate!

Rakhi Mehra's picture

Given how many people in India walk or cycle to work and school it's embarrassing that we don't have street design guidelines that can facilitate this culture and ensure greater spacial equity! If the society and urban planning agencies don't address this in time, the hostile environment is forcing those that can/could walk or cycle to use motorised transport if they can afford it. We need to make walking safer and more convenient. Here is a link to Street Design Guidelines:

http://uttipec.nic.in/writereaddata/mainlinkFile/File282.pdf

I'm not certain but they still remain on paper!

Carlin Carr's picture

Rakhi, I feel your pain! The one hopeful example is coming out of Chennai. I heard Shreya Gadepalli of ITDP speak at the ORF in Mumbai a couple months ago, and they--believe it or not--are reworking their roads to be within these guidelines. They are actually narrowing the roads (to be the appropriate width necessary for cars) and using the extra space for sidewalks and bike paths. I wrote about it a few weeks back. You might be interested in accessing Shreya's presentation and the ORF video, which I link to in the article. http://urb.im/ca130930mme

Carlin Carr's picture

Also, while we're on the subject--I've been thinking about this article that was going around last week from the Guardian on the "Secrets of the World's Happiest Cities." Not only is a short commute to work one of the most important factors in how satisfied people are with their lives, it is also the ability to walk to work that makes people most happy. Here's an excerpt:

"A couple of University of Zurich economists, Bruno Frey and Alois Stutzer, compared German commuters' estimation of the time it took them to get to work with their answers to the standard wellbeing question, "How satisfied are you with your life, all things considered?"

Their finding was seemingly straightforward: the longer the drive, the less happy people were. Before you dismiss this as numbingly obvious, keep in mind that they were testing not for drive satisfaction, but for life satisfaction. People were choosing commutes that made their entire lives worse. Stutzer and Frey found that a person with a one-hour commute has to earn 40% more money to be as satisfied with life as someone who walks to the office. On the other hand, for a single person, exchanging a long commute for a short walk to work has the same effect on happiness as finding a new love."

The full article is here: http://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/nov/01/secrets-worlds-happiest-c...

Tariq Toffa's picture

Hi all. Thanks for the interesting articles and discussion.

Two reasons stand out for me for Curitiba’s successes in the discussions.

One must absolutely be the spatial literacy & background of former mayor Jaime Lerner. It is worthwhile pointing out that in Johannesburg the current mayor used to work in the City’s planning department in the past, & now in his term as mayor is responsible for probably the most radical spatial re-imagining of Johannesburg; with major interventions in transport-related development to address the city’s inequalities & sprawl.

A second apparent reason for Curitiba’s success, which compliments the first, may be the incentivizing of landowners toward public space-making, as Catalina has pointed out in her article. In SA, academics have noted the lack of confidence to “play” market forces, & the inability to assemble “deals” that can produce transformative outcomes.

Curitiba’s case seems to be an uncommon fusion of spatial understanding, political will, & economics. Something to think about.

I appreciate the comments from Olatawura Ladipo-Ajayi on making Lagos safer for pedestrians. Many West African cities face similar challenges with over-crowded streets and insufficient sidewalks & pedestrian overpasses. I think in the West African context, it is worthwhile to keep in mind the link between progressive urban planning and the employment structure – that is, how the majority of the population earn a day-to-day living. In large West African cities like Lagos, 75 per cent or more of the urban employed population are self-employed / own-account workers who work in the informal economy (see national-level statistics here http://wiego.org/resources/database-informal-employment-produced-ilo-par...), and a significant proportion of those work either in public space (including on sidewalks) or in their homes. The percentages who fall into this category are notably higher among women than men. So as we think about urban planning that will allow for better pedestrian flows and more green space, we must also think about the effect that urban planning may have on these livelihoods and the households that rely on them – and be sensitive to the need to support livelihoods, rather than undermine them. This means, for example, finding a way to integrate street vendors into city life, and providing supportive infrastructure for home-based workers and informal recyclers. The Inclusive Cities project provides good resources on the types of urban livelihoods most commonly found in the global South (http://www.inclusivecities.org/) and WIEGO has extensive resources on the informal economy (www.wiego.org).

Thanks for the lively discussion!

Sally, thanks for your contribution and useful resources! You bring a key dimension into this discussion regarding how urban planning and urban development programs can benefit people whose main socioeconomic activities take place on the streets. I consider that this is a key challenge not only in West Africa, but also in other places as well. In the case of Latin America, various examples come to mind in the context of urban revitalization of historic centres (Lima, Mexico, Quito, etc). The challenge has been how to engage those street workers/ vendors and recyclers into the revitalization process and identify key policy responses that match their needs in a proper and sustainable way. Some of the lessons from Latin America include that efforts of engaging street vendors cannot be improvised and require long term engagement and dedication so that their recommendations can inform policies. Another lesson is that there needs to better be understanding of who these street vendors and workers are. Sometimes, we tend to think the economic activities carried out by street vendors are all the same and require similar interventions, while experience shows that among street vendors and workers there are different groups and dynamics and might require differentiated responses.

Olatawura Ladipo-Ajayi's picture

Thank you for your insightful comments Sally, I agree that effects of policies on economic life should be considered. However, when it comes to use of public space, shouldn't the greater cause take priority and the purpose of public goods take precedence?

There is a growing informal sector and it will probably grow larger due to unemployment rates so this group needs better policy attention. That being said on the issue of side walks and pedestrian safety, clearing out sidewalk to make it accessible for larger part of the cities population is mostly about their safety, both pedestrians and informal workers that make use of such spaces. I do not presume to have the solution, perhaps low cost shopping places and safety regulations for street hawkers might be the solution. It is worth considering what the effects will be if a city plan is allowed to be disrupted with economic activities going on outside assigned spaces would be, just as food for thought. Nonetheless informal sectors definitely need policy attention.

Thanks for the resources :)

Add new comment

Filtered HTML

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.