Article and photo by Maricha Friedman
Pedestrian-friendly street design improvements, based on designs developed in an ITDP workshop, are currently being implemented in Lapa, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. In February 2010, ITDP coordinated a Public Space and Pedestrian Safety Workshop in Rio de Janeiro for Municipal officials and employees. The workshop, and associated field visits, was led by ITDP consultant Michael King of Nelson/Nygaard Consulting Associates.
The street improvements discussed in these workshops now being realized in Lapa, a famous historic and cultural district of Rio that is currently experiencing a very successful revitalization. All along Lapa’s main avenue, Avenida Mem de Sá, sidewalks and intersections improvements are under construction to incorporate many of the ideas from the workshops.
The workshop included around 50 participants from a wide range of municipal government agencies, including CET-Rio, the Transportation Engineering Company, and the secretariats of the environment, culture, and public works. To begin the workshop, Michael King presented several methodologies to improve street conditions for pedestrians. In the workshops, participants from various backgrounds formed groups to discuss and design street improvements based on King’s presentation. They then presented their ideas to each other, resulting in enthusiastic and fruitful discussions, and ultimately, implementation.
Two key locations were visited by the group and discussed in the workshop. One was Avenida Presidente Vargas, the area around major transportation hub Brazil Central Station, in downtown Rio de Janeiro that has a current street design that is very unsafe for pedestrians. The other location was Lapa, the burgeoning nightlife district of Rio de Janeiro. For the Lapa location, workshop participants focused on redesigning plazas and intersections to include more pedestrian space (much space is currently dominated by parking); widening sidewalks for street side cafes and to accommodate the high volume of pedestrians; and adding bike lanes.
Michael King said of the workshops, “The Cariocas are quite passionate about their city and dove right into the exercise. I’m so pleased that the energy of the workshop has carried over into implementation.” Hopefully the improvements discussed for the downtown area of Rio will also come to fruition, but in the meantime the construction in Lapa will lead to a safer environment for pedestrians and build the capacity of Rio’s municipal government to implement similar street design improvements elsewhere.