Pedestrian cities: a global trend of large cities

São Paulo and other international examples want to transform people's relationship with the location they live.

January 10, 2020

The search for quality of life is leading a change in the cities’ planning to prioritize pedestrians. Large cities around the world have such projects.

In Melbourne, Australia, the concept of "20-minute neighborhoods" is being developed, in which residents can meet most of their needs on a walk, bike ride or public transport, in a 20-minute commute. Hamburg, in Germany, plans to turn 40% of its area into green spaces without cars. New York, in the United States, is reducing areas for motor vehicles and expanding pedestrian space, including in Times Square, as well as Barcelona, in Spain.

In Brazil, this change is also a trend, but there is still much to be done, as indicated by the Architect and Urban Planner, Guilherme Torres. "We follow an outdated model of urbanism, with zoning laws that create ghost zones in cities. Strictly residential neighborhoods, other commercial and so on. We follow a model that segregates the population, with low density and at the mercy of transportation based on the automobile," he says.

São Paulo is a city that is already moving in a new direction. The Strategic Master Plan (PDE), of 2014, and the Law on Parceling, Land Use and Occupation (LPUOS), of 2016, encourage living close to work and improvement in urban model along public transport corridors, through buildings with public enjoyment (use of the ground floor for pedestrians, users or not of the building), active façade (business and services on the ground floor) , widening of public promenade (with donation of areas) and incentive to mixed-use buildings.

"It is an attempt by the government to regulate the public space, improving the relationship of the population with the city," says the architect and urban planner Cirlene Mendes da Silva, Technical Coordinator of the Lato Sensu graduate courses at Instituto Brasileiro de Avaliações e Perícias de Engenharia de São Paulo (IBAPE/SP).

Besides that, there are specific initiatives, such as the restriction of movement of vehicles on certain days and times on roads such as Avenida Paulista and Elevado Costa e Silva, Minhocão, in addition to the rebuilding of the boardwalks of the old downtown area.

Like the streets of Paulista open, Minhocão becomes an attraction in São Paulo

However, valuing the pedestrian is not only improving the sidewalks. This conception involves a whole concept of urban landscape, requalification of the blocks and regulation of buildings. The goal is to make sure that those who walk do not have to walk for meters and meters through a street with condominiums high walls.

"Society can no longer live with the disorderly growth of cities, which prioritizes the use of the automobile and causes long and chaotic displacements, combined with the weak and poor infrastructure of public transport," Cirlene points out.

The architect and urban planner also lists the advantages of prioritizing pedestrians in large cities:

  • Improvement of the residents’ quality of life, both in the aspect of social relations that walking provides as well as health benefits;
  • Transformation of people's relationship with the city, being a great way to better know it;
  • Reduction of traffic and pollution.

"There are many variables for a good quality of life, but, of course, one of them is the decrease in the time of commuting between housing and work and, consequently, the increase in leisure time and interaction among people," she concludes.