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Reshape Streets, Reconnect Communities

[Leia em português]

A young girl enjoys the new public space
Image Credits: Marcos Moura/Fortaleza City Hall

When officials in Fortaleza (Brazil) first presented plans to implement a low-speed zone in the Cidade 2000 neighborhood, residents were reluctant. Locals were afraid the intervention would generate congestion, reduce parking, and cause closures due to construction. At the same time, 78% of people interviewed in the area said they felt ‘unsafe’ or ‘very unsafe’ due to motorized traffic. Something needed to be done to improve the area.

Learning from international best practice, the city decided to implement the project in a phased approach to show the community how underutilized road space can be transformed to become an asset for the neighborhood. By means of a few buckets of paint, planters, trash cans, and benches, the southern part of Avenida Central was completely transformed over two nights. The interim project opened on September 17th and the results were immediate and noticeable for all.

 

The transformation

More than 1,200 sq. meters of underutilized parking space was reclaimed as a new plaza where people can walk, sit, and spend time together. A narrow traffic lane preserves local access for motorized vehicles, allowing for delivery of goods, pickup and drop off, and even some parking. Three new crosswalks were introduced, giving clear priority to pedestrians. Altogether, these measures encourage vehicles to move at safer speeds and enhance safety and comfort for all street users.

In the new square, local kids have a place to play, neighbors of all ages and abilities have new benches to sit and talk, cyclists have a safer route to ride, and local businesses have new customers. Immediately after the transformation, the number of children playing in the area more than doubled. A vast sea of asphalt became the new heart of the neighborhood.

 

Image credits: Victor Macedo / Fortaleza City Hall

Image credits: NACTO – GDCI

Results and next steps for Fortaleza

The new design improves safety and invites new activities. Before the intervention, 79% of the space was dedicated for cars and 21% for people. After implementation, the space distribution shifted to 73% for people vs. 27% for cars. As a result, the number of pedestrians walking in the area increased by 350%. Residents loved the changes: 80% of people surveyed felt ‘safe’ or ‘very safe’ crossing the streets, compared to 11% before transformation. Additionally, 94% of all users perceived the new space as ‘good’ or ‘very good’. All these benefits were achieved while counts showed no change in vehicle throughput in the neighborhood.

Cidade 2000 is a great example of how interim interventions can inspire permanent street transformations. Once reluctant, after the transformation, residents became the project’s biggest advocate, organizing a petition for the project to become permanent. Indeed, the project was such a hit with residents that Fortaleza’s Mayor expressed his intention to make Cidade da Gente (‘City for People’) into a city-wide program in 2018.

 

The local community showed great enthusiasm for the project and actively participated