As a British person walking around the streets in Brazil I notice a big difference in the quality of the pedestrian environment. Also, Brazilians visiting Britain normally express surprise at how clean the streets are. I don't actually think the streets are cleaner at all, but I think they mean that the pavements are smoother and don't have piles of household rubbish on the floor. Streets in Britain are probably dirtier but in other ways, people don't scrub the pavement outside their houses like in Brazil. So, in Britain the streets are "clean" as in smooth and flat. In Brazil the pavements are extremely varied, but broken paving slabs, extreme inclines, big holes sharp metal spikes sticking out of the ground are commonplace, I have to really watch my step, every step of the way. For British people used to living in a sterile world, where it is quite literally illegal, immoral and possibly impossible to hurt yourself in the course of work or walking in the street, I often view Brazil as a "health and safety" nightmare. I joke that within hours of landing in Brazil, British people will probably hurt themselves just walking around. We're not accustomed to watching out for dangerous pavements.
One curious detail that dramatically affects the pedestrian environment in Brazil is the ownership of the public realm. Every building facing a pavement has ownership and responsibility for the ongoing maintenance of the pavement that runs along its edge. So, in effect this produces a very irregular pedestrian environment. You can have a short stretch of excellent quality pavement, perhaps even decorative, but this can stop abruptly and dispatch you onto a piece of rutted mud, full of puddles and even deep services holes, at times it even feels like you could be an intruder on private space. All this forces pedestrians to walk on the road in the line of cars. Often, away from the city centre there is not even a hint of a pavement.
Respect for pedestrians is another thing, motorists rarely slow down when they see a pedestrian crossing the road. Junctions are often designed very dangerously and like I mentioned above sometimes there is no pavement in which to take refuge. As for people with disabilities or elderly folk I really don't know how they get about, and in fact you almost never see them out, or children in prams. I'm glad I don't have small kids and that I'm not old yet.
This news, blogged by Raquel Rolnik seems like a step in the right direction
The hard life of pedestrians in the city
09/05/11 by raquelrolnik
"More than 30% of the total journeys made in the metropolitan region of São Paulo are by foot, according the research “Origin and Destiny” undertaken by the city in 2007. However, the policies that protect, qualify and give sustenance to this type of journey are rare. A consequence of this is the fact that it is that pedestrians are the principle victims of Paulista transport. Research by CET (Company of Engineering and Traffic) divulged today show that, even where pedestrian crossings exist, a majority of motorists don't respect the traffic lights.
In the research, 89.6% of motorists disrespect the law of pedestrian priority on crossings. Moreover, 69.5% of the people that travel on foot feel disrespected by motorists. At the end of the last month, the State imparted that the city council would soon announce the creation of eleven zones of pedestrian protection. These areas will have special signals, will be reinforced by traffic police to guarantee that motorbikes and cars don’t invade the pedestrian crossings, and will have people holding flags to to signal that vehicles should stop. The fact is that it’s really difficult to travel for those who travel by foot in São Paulo. Not only in terms of security, but also the quality of the pavements, lighting and other issues. Even public transport receives more attention from the public powers than pedestrian space. We hope, then, that the methods announced by the city coucil will only be the start of a much wider policy regarding the space of the pedestrian in the city."
A dura vida dos pedestres na cidade
09/05/11 por raquelrolnik
"Mais de 30% do total de deslocamentos na região metropolitana de São Paulo são feitos a pé, de acordo com a pesquisa Origem e Destino realizada pelo metrô em 2007. Entretanto, são raras as políticas que protegem, qualificam e dão sustentação a esse tipo de deslocamento. A consequencia disso é o fato de que são os pedestres as principais vítimas do trânsito paulistano. Pesquisa da CET (Companhia de Engenharia de Tráfego) divulgada hoje mostra que, mesmo onde existem faixas de pedestre, a maioria dos motoristas não respeita esta sinalização.
Dentro do universo pesquisado, 89,6% dos motoristas desrespeitaram a regra de prioridade ao pedestre na faixa. Além disso, 69,5% das pessoas que se deslocam a pé sentem-se desrespeitadas pelos motoristas.
No fim do mês passado, o Estadão divulgou que a prefeitura anunciará, em breve, a criação de onze zonas de proteção para pedestres. Estas áreas terão sinalização específica, reforço de agentes de trânsito para garantir que motos e carros não invadam as faixas de pedestre, e orientadores de tráfego que usarão bandeiras para sinalizar que os veículos devem parar.
O fato é que é mesmo difícil o deslocamento de quem anda a pé em São Paulo. Não apenas em termos de segurança, mas também da própria qualidade das calçadas, da iluminação, entre outros aspectos. Até mesmo o transporte coletivo recebe mais atenção por parte do poder público do que o espaço do pedestre.
Esperamos, então, que as medidas anunciadas pela prefeitura sejam apenas o começo de uma política muito mais ampla de melhoria do espaço do pedestre na cidade."
great blog by Raquel Rolnik