Jaime Lerner on Making Curitiba’s First Pedestrian Street
This is the third installment of videos from Brazil. Demonstrating again how Curitiba Brazil was 35+ years in front of our NYC livable streets curve, this video is about a street transformation.
Former Mayor and founder of Bus Rapid Transit, Jaime Lerner sat down with me during my visit to discuss how and why he made the first pedestrian street in the middle of downtown Curitiba.
Rua XV de Novembro (15th of November Street) is a vital artery through downtown Curitiba. In 1972 under the direction of then Mayor Jaime Lerner, it became the first major pedestrian street in Brazil. The first phase of closing the street to automobiles and opening it to people took place in only 72 hours. The pedestrian plaza spans 15 blocks, and although it was initially unpopular, it is now a central meeting spot and the epicenter of local businesses in the center of Curitiba.
Jaime Lerner: [0:08] We have to have places where we can meet ourselves, and very pleasant places. Between all this slew of cars, we have to have a gap for people.
People: [Speaks Portuguese] [0:26]
Speaker: [Speaks Portuguese] [0:36]
Speaker: [Speaks Portuguese] [1:00]
Speaker: [Speaks Portuguese] [1:19] [music]
Jaime Lerner: [1:32] We knew that it should be for pedestrians, but the question was the people that were against emissions, they were against... We showed them the designs, and we realized that it's no way. A few blocks, we should do it immediately. [1:52] So, I called my Secretary of Public Works, and asked him how long it would take. He told me around five months. "No, I need this in 48 hours."
[2:03] He said, "You're crazy."
[2:06] We started the whole discussion on one day. "OK, one week, if we could have the whole street furniture, all materials, all the manpower together and working 24 hours."
[2:21] At the end, we were agreed with 72 hours with that one. Friday night, and we finished on Monday night.
Speaker: [speaks Portuguese] [2:32]
Speaker: [speaks Portuguese] [2:41]
Jaime Lerner: [2:51] What happened in Curitibas, we were a very young group of professionals and we had the courage to start. And the moment when we started, we saw that it could be improved, and improving any one solution could bring synergy to another solution. Now, probably transport to cultural problems.
Speaker: [speaks Portuguese] [3:17]
Jaime Lermer: [3:22] Sometimes, we have to work fast. Why? First, to avoid our own bureaucracy. Second is to avoid political problems. Once the political decision is done, you have to do it fast. If not, it's going to be like a Sunday branch in a huge family and have a huge discussion. You have to start immediately. [3:51] The third reason to be fast is to avoid your own insecurity.