Rio, a walkable city?

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(Part of Rio’s Doxiadis Plan)

Last night I was watching a video of city planner Jeff Speck sharing his “general theory of walkability” – four planning principles to transform sprawling cities into walkable oases, and I wondered how it might be applied to Rio de Janeiro. Basically, he says cities need 1) to offer a proper reason to walk, 2) to have safe streets, 3) the walking has to be comfortable and 4) it has to be interesting.

Being that Rio’s layout is rather inevitably skinny and long, squished between mountains the the sea – not large, fat and round like São Paulo – it can’t be too walkable, but it can be walkable by neighborhood. Like the way Ipanema, Tijuca and Centro are.

The glaring problem with his 4 steps – or rather just one of them – when applied to Rio is number 2 (safe streets). All it takes is one look at the Onde Fui Roubado (Where I Was Robbed) site to see the quantity of most recent crimes.

While I believe crime can mostly be solved through education and opportunity, Speck’s first and fourth principles (a proper reason and interestingness) only require institutions, centers, museums, the government and individuals to all do their part in creating a web of continuous activities throughout the city. Think: Samba da Ouvidor or Pedra do Sal, free events at the CCBB, or even something like Instawalk Rio. The stronger the sense of community, the less crime that will occur – at least on a neighborhood scale.

After watching the video below, as well as the talk he gave at TED one month prior, it got me wondering how Speck would approach Rio, were he tasked with making it walkable. It can’t be improved if no one first imagines how that improvement might happen. What would it take and what can be done to make it happen?

If you are interested in the topic, Curitiba’s Jaime Lerner recently shared a few ideas (PT) with the BBC regarding how Brazil can maximize its potential.

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