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Building Trust: Interim Interventions as a Tool for Community Participation

[Leia em português]

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The City of Fortaleza, Brazil, has consolidated its place as a global pioneer in improving road safety by meeting the UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target of halving road fatalities by 2020. Even so, this remarkable reduction in mortality rate—from 14.9 people killed per 100,000 inhabitants in 2010 to 7.4 in 2019—has not prevented local officials from advancing this successful strategy even further. In December 2019, the NACTO-GDCI team supported the city in implementing the first interim street transformation under the Caminhos da Escola (Paths to School) program, which aims to improve road safety for all road users in areas around schools through better street design.

To select the program’s priority sites, the city conducted a thorough analysis of existing citywide data to identify zones that combined critical road safety conditions with high numbers of students registered in nearby public schools. Unsurprisingly, the vast majority of the areas selected were on Fortaleza’s periphery, in historically underserved communities, including some informal, self-built settlements. This was the case for the Cristo Redentor neighborhood, a high-density, low-income area 5 km west of downtown Fortaleza. The site is surrounded by three schools that serve over 3,000 students, as well as several other public facilities used by an additional 4,000 people.

Building off another successful local program, Cidade da Gente (City of People), the city decided to adopt an interim intervention phase prior to capital construction. This has been instrumental for two main reasons. First, it served as a powerful engagement tool with local residents and other stakeholders. Historically neglected by city officials, communities like Cristo Redentor often lack trust in the local government, and the temporary intervention has proven highly effective in demonstrating new possibilities and in sparking productive conversations about the area. Second, the use of low-cost materials allows the project team to test solutions, to collect metrics necessary to evaluate the project’s impact, and to make any needed design refinements before a permanent intervention.

This incremental design approach has been particularly important for dealing with informal neighborhoods, where uneven street profiles or oddly-shaped open spaces often require more flexibility and adaptability from the design, compared to more regular or gridded streets. The proposed redesign for the site aimed to improve safety and accessibility to local public facilities through the use of proven design techniques, such as  sidewalk extensions, compact intersections with shorter pedestrian crossings, and narrowed travel lanes. Additionally, in one area, a leftover asphalt space was transformed into a safe space for kids to play and to enjoy their neighborhood’s front yard while maintaining access for public transit and school buses.

Widely approved by the Cristo Redentor community, the interim street transformation will allow the project team to test scenarios, collect metrics, gather community feedback, and refine the design before moving towards capital construction in March 2020. This effort is led by city staff and relies heavily on the input of local stakeholders such as school officials, neighborhood children, and community leaders.

In 2020, NACTO-GDCI will continue to work with the City of Fortaleza under the Streets for Kids program, sharing design principles from the upcoming Designing Streets for Kids guide, conducting capacity building workshops for city staff, and supporting more street transformations to keep making Fortaleza’s streets comfortable, educational, and inspiring for children and their caregivers.





This collaboration between NACTO’s Global Designing Cities Initiative and the City of Fortaleza is made possible thanks to generous support from the Bloomberg Philanthropies Initiative for Global Road Safety (BIGRS)

Written by Majed Abdulsamad, Eduardo Pompeo and Annie Peyton

Designed by Kat Gowland

Please contact [email protected] with inquiries related to this project.


Read more about our work in Fortaleza:

Measure What Matters: Reclaiming Space for Pedestrians in Downtown Fortaleza

Fortaleza Connects the Street to the Sea for MOBILIZE

Fortaleza Cares: Prioritizing Safer Access to Albert Sabin Children’s Hospital

The Power of Paint: Bringing Life to the Streets of Dragão do Mar

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