In the 1960s, Jane Jacobs conducted an investigation into the reasons why several neighborhoods, especially in the center of cities in the United States, were in decline. Which led her to write one of the most influential books on the human approach to urban planning. In this publication, the author emphasized the importance of promoting adequate and dynamic (or interesting) streets to promote the effective use of a city’s neighborhoods.
Like other cities in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), the city of Campo Grande in Brazil, with an estimated population of 885,711 inhabitants, has seen a progressive reduction in the population living in the city center since the 90s, even though most of the existing jobs are concentrated in the neighborhoods located in the central area of the city. This dynamic explains, in part, the high motorization rate of the city (6 vehicles per 10 inhabitants) and the 28% reduction in the number of bus passengers between 1998 and 2012, factors that contributed to make Campo Grande the Brazilian capital with the highest CO2 emission rate per inhabitant (estimated at 1,741 kg / inhabitant).
Faced with these challenges, Campo Grande has been working since 2008 with the support of the IDB in the search for solutions to revitalize the city center through initiatives that promote safe and inclusive mobility and permanence in the central area. Currently in its second phase, the Integrated Development Program of the Municipality of Campo Grande – Reviva Campo Grande – is promoting the revitalization of 14 de Julho Street (the main commercial route of the city) and adjacent streets, and the expansion of the corridors of buses that pass through the central area. However, how can these interventions be inclusive and promote the use by those citizens who are generally excluded from urban planning processes: women, older adults, people with disabilities and children?
How can we promote safe mobility and the use of public spaces for different population groups in an integrated way?
To answer these questions, the IDB, the Instituto de Políticas para el Transporte y el Desarrollo (ITDP), multisectoral public managers of the city of Campo Grande, representatives of civil society, academics and community leaders, met during a practical training on inclusive mobility and gender equality in urban development with the aim of identifying concepts and good practices that make it possible to design streets and appropriate public spaces in the city center.
The choice of issues that were addressed during the workshop – gender and inclusion – was intended to show that urban development is not a “neutral” process, but a process that can instead promote indirectly the inequality of opportunities faced by various groups and the social roles played by men and women. For example, urban policies and interventions that do not incorporate considerations related to care, whether of young children or dependent adults, in urban design, hinder the use of the city by women, who generally dedicate 2.6 times more time for domestic and care work than men (UN-Women 2017). The lack of policies and interventions aimed at improving the perception of safety of the most vulnerable pedestrians and combating gender-based violence causes many women and girls around the world to stop walking or using public transport at night.
From recreational activities, such as:
- a board game in which each participant spends a different energy level according to their profile (men, mothers or caregivers with a young child, wheelchair users, women, older adults or people with disabilities) and their relationship with the environment (sidewalks without tactile pavement, the presence of obstacles, lack of adequate lighting) and;
- a sensory walk, in which the participants rode in wheelchairs, used bandages and crutches, carrying bags of rice and baby cars, the participants internalized the concepts learned during the theoretical activities and were able to “live” the experience of different pedestrians. They could especially feel the difficulties that people face to move in an inappropriate environment.
As part of the training, participants collected data on some streets in the central area of Campo Grande about the flow of different pedestrians (children, men, women, elderly, wheelchair users). Participants observed the duration of traffic lights and the reaction of pedestrians at intersections. They also observed the permanence of people on the sidewalks and their relationship with the existent – or lack of – street furniture, trees and lighting.
With the support of the data collected and the theoretical content of the workshop, the participants made conceptual recommendations to improve the different streets of the central area of Campo Grande and build urban environments that favor active displacements (those made on foot or by bicycle), the use of public transport, and the coexistence between different pedestrians, bicycles, cars and motorcycles in a safe and inclusive way.
The main recommendations highlighted the need to remove obstacles on the sidewalks (such as the presence of holes and the absence of adequate tactile pavement) to facilitate the mobility of all pedestrians. The need to include specific signage for pedestrians and improve the lighting of sidewalks and public roads to promote safety was raised. It was also stressed the need to include adequate urban furniture and tree roads to promote the permanence of people in public spaces and their thermal comfort .
The experience of Campo Grande demonstrates the importance of involving groups often excluded from urban planning processes and recognizing their specific needs to build adequate and inclusive public spaces.
“Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.”
The Death and Life of Great American Cities. Jane Jacobs.
 Term used as a reference to the ability of trees to reduce temperature in the streets.
Video (in Spanish): Conversamos junto a nuestros expertos en inclusión social y urbana, Nora Libertun y Juan Pablo Salazar, sobre cómo promover ciudades inclusivas y accesibles, destacando los avances realizados a la fecha en América Latina y el Caribe, así como los desafíos pendientes en la planificación y construcción de ciudades pensadas para toda la población en su conjunto.
¿Cuán accesible es tu ciudad para las personas con movilidad reducida? Vota y conoce cómo podemos promover ciudades más inclusivas: https://t.co/FNVLy6cmQp
— BID Ciudades Sostenibles (@BID_Ciudades) June 24, 2019