I like walking. Give me the chance to walk or drive or get the bus and I’ll walk almost every time. I walk a lot in Curitiba, but very few other people do. Here follows a bit of a rant, but it’s all true, I even have photos to back it up.
Curitba’s streets are not paved with gold. At times it seems that they are more paved with holes than anything else which means that walking around the city can be a challenge. You will need a good pair of walking shoes, or at the very least a comfortable pair of trainers. Forget those heels, ladies. And as for walking around with a pushchair; not a chance!
The authroities here in Curitiba seem to thing that the material you use for paving your streets gives the city some sort of identity. Traditionally they used these square blocks of stone that were the bane of many a pedestrian’s life. They are uneven at the best of times, and at the worst you could easily break your ankle on them. After a short while one of the blocks would become loose and allow water under it. If you stepped on the block at the wrong angle a shotof water would fly up all over your clean white trousers.
Sometimes, for some unfathomable reason, one of the blocks would be upside down, so that the not-so-flat part was on the bottom and the really-unflat part was on the top. Why? How?
And then after a few more weeks some of the blocks would just be missing completely and so you would need 4×4 to get around the pavements.
A not very flat pavement.
The grey brick road
So the prefeitura (council), in its infinite wisdom decided to introduce a new type of block that would be flatter (yay) and easier to maintain (double yay). Here is a picture of a pavement that was laid about 3 months ago.
It might not be the brick’s fault. It might well be shoddy workmanship. But it’s probably both.
In some areas of Curitiba they have this pretty nifty idea of marking the walk for blind people with a different type of paving slab that has ridges to make it easy to follow. Or easy to fall over.
The roots are showing
Apparently, the responsibilty for the upkeep of pavements lies with the owner of the land directly behind the pavement. The prefeitura only has the responisbilty to make sure the landowner is looking after the pavement. Obviously this system is not working.
Then there is the fact that many people who drive cars seem to think that the pavements are just an extension of the road; that they are place to leave the car when you have to drop the washing off at the laundrette.
In this first picture, the gate to the drive was open so the driver culd have gone into the building, but he decided it was much safer for all concerned to leave it across the pavement. Grrrrrr!
And it isn’t just the the mindless drivers, it is also the mindless prefeitura (council again). Imagine this, you have a narrow pavement with a bit of grass to the side. You want ot put a huge lamp post somewhere in the vicinity. Where do you put it? On the pavement or on the grass?
The bin bag doesn’t help of course, but that’s just another one of the challenges to walking around Curitiba.
The thing is, they do have some pavements that are excellent and flat and brilliant for walking on. You could push a pushchair with no problems and the blind would be able to walk down them without fear. They are easy to maintain and cheap to install. They are called cylce lanes. Although nobody cycles in them because there are too many peolpe walking on them. The problem must be that they don’t give the right impression.
Curitiba, where very few streets are paved with tarmac.
The impression I get is that this city is not designed for people to walk, only to drive. Get off the pavements and into your car. And unfotunately, that is exactly what most Curitibanos do.
And these stories only come from a few neighbourhoods around the centre of the city. If you move out a bit the only pavements are mud.
Crossing the road
I mentioned in another post how it can be difficult to find a place to cross the road. At a crossroads you can only safely cross the road at two points because the other points always have cars coming into them. There is rarely a pause when all the cars are stopped to allow pedestrians to cross. This is made even worse by the fact that drivers see the amber light as a signal to speed up rather than slow down. This means that they come flying through the lights just as the next set of cars starts up, giving the pedestrain no time to even run across the road in those few seconds when the lights are red for both arms of the crossroads.