May 09, 2014

Reclaiming the City, One Space at a Time

Parklet in Sao Paulo

Urban planning is about choices. With limited area, how street space is allocated can send a powerful signal about the city’s priorities. In steps large and small, São Paulo, Brazil is making the statement that the city is for pedestrians, not cars. Most recently, Mayor Haddad signed legislation expanding parklets in the city, small ‘sidewalk extensions’ or green spaces built in former on-street parking spaces. The move is in harmony with ITDP’s goals for São Paulo. From work on the city’s Master Plan to upcoming recommendations on pedestrian plazas, ITDP works closely with São Paulo to promote a friendlier pedestrian environment, and the new parklets program fits in perfectly.

Parklets are simple. Take away a parking spot (or two!), and add new public space in its place. Parks can have benches, chairs, tables, trees, bike racks and more – anything open to the public. The first parklets were built in San Francisco in 2010, and the idea has spread around the world. In São Paulo, the city experimented with removing parking spaces for parks several times, including pilot programs and on the annual international Parking Day, but previous parks have always been temporary. Last week’s formalization of the parklet program makes room for permanent parks and proves São Paulo’s commitment to pedestrians and public space.

Mayor Hadded inaugerated a new parklet, replacing two parking spaces, in the popular Jardins neighborhood of São Paulo.
Mayor Hadded inaugerated a new parklet, replacing two parking spaces, in the popular Jardins neighborhood of São Paulo. Source

Under the new policy, any private citizen can sponsor a parklet. Rails or barriers protect the users from cars on the street, and parklets are not allowed in bus or bike lanes.

 “It is an extension of the sidewalk that gives pedestrians and cyclists an area to occupy and use, and that will allow for a better city,” said Mayor Haddad. The Mayor inaugurated the policy with a new parklet replacing several parking spaces at a highly visible downtown intersection.

“We’re all very excited about the new parklets program,” said ITDP Brazil Director Clarisse Linke. “It is a huge statement that São Paulo wants to be a better city for people. This law will provides new places for Paulistas to interact with the city and shows that São Paulo is moving in the right direction.”

ITDP Brazil works closely with both São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro to promote pedestrian improvements and the conversion of unattractive and often underused spaces in the street into publicly accessible open spaces available for all to enjoy.

As São Paulo prepares its upcoming Master Plan, ITDP has advocated for an increased focus on pedestrians, a reduction in parking spaces, the creation of more open spaces and stronger TOD principles – all of which are evident in the city’s new Parklet program.

The creation of permanent parklets signals a new, pedestrian-focused era for São Paulo. The parks democratize the city, allowing the space to be used by more people in more open, accessible ways. The new parks will make the streets of São Paulo more pleasant places to be and encourage residents to leave their cars behind and hit the streets on foot. Thanks to progressive choices by planners and the local government, it’s good time to be a pedestrian in São Paulo.

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