Car-friendly Brasília embraces walkers and cyclists

Built from scratch in the 1950s, the Brazilian capital of Brasília was designed with the idea that all of its residents would be getting around by automobile. And that has largely turned out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy: today, 41 per cent of travel in the city is made by car – the highest rate in the country. But that could soon change, as the government is looking to support movement on foot and by bicycle by developing a new policy on “active mobility”.

The Federal District’s Active Mobility Policy, which includes walking and cycling mobility, has the general objective of contributing to broad and democratic access to the city, by planning and organizing actions that ensure pleasant, affordable, safe, comfortable and inviting journeys for pedestrians and cyclists. The Government of Brasília will develop the Active Mobility Plan with the support of UN Environment Share the Road Programme and the World Resource Institute’s Brazil office.

The policy commits to improving mobility for people who travel by bicycle and on foot and fostering migration of motorized transport users to active modes. It also aims to better integrate active mobility within Brasília’s public transport system.

To ensure the development of a collaborative policy, Brasília government officials organized two workshops for relevant actors in December. The first engaged members of the public, while the second was for civil society; together, they gathered 45 people, including at least three with disabilities (visual, hearing and wheelchair). WRI Brasil conducted the sessions attended by stakeholders from Pedestrian and Cycling Organizations, academia, transport companies, commercial associations and technical staff from the government.

“By informing and involving different stakeholders in the process, it is possible to have a final plan that both serves the public’s interests and introduces new ways to try to drive a real change in mindset,” said Daniely Votto, Urban Governance Manager in WRI Brazil.

By using World Café tools and prioritizing measures to be consolidated in the active mobility policy, both groups were able to influence the process and better understand the main topics the plan would tackle. Stakeholders prioritized the need to improve public transport and policies to foster cycling infrastructure. They also prioritized the need of an educational policy in schools to foster the early understanding on the effects of high speeds, and private car-oriented city hazards.

Paula Manoela dos Santos, Active Mobility Coordinator in WRI Brasil, said that participatory processes are key to the policy’s success: “We were very pleased when the government itself demanded support to develop participation workshops, showing a concern to involve all relevant actors.”

Brasília has the first draft of the Active Mobility Plan. In September 2018, the government will start working to support improvements to infrastructure and operations, as well as education and behaviour change.

UN Environment