Monday, September 8, 2008


I'm obsessed with making Caracas's sidewalks useable.

This is what it looks like on a Thursday, Friday or Saturday night in much of Chacao and Las Mercedes, the only rich-ish neighborhoods that have anything like walkable streets. In fact, this is in El Rosal, which is widely credited as the most walkable part of Caracas. So what is wrong with this picture?

1. Yes, those are cars. Yes, that's a sidewalk. I've been asking the omnipresent parking attendants why they leave cars on the sidewalk and most claim that their business has special permission. When I ask to talk to the owner, the owner is never there. I have been telling police that I think this is bollocks, and that they should do something about it. They generally tell me to talk to a supervisor. I'll let you know how that goes. As is now, you can either walk in the street or walk through here:

2. Above, I said it's a sidewalk. But when you look close you can see that there's no significant change in relief between the street and the sidewalk. If anything, the sidewalk is just a poorly built parking area. Poorly built in the sense that the concrete is cheap -- notice all the cracks. (I recently noticed someone had used wood chips as an aggregate in a sidewalk in Chacao. The wood is gradually disappearing, leaving cavities. It looks kind of cool except that the cavities fill with dirt and grime and the concrete will probably endure much less time thanks to this cheap trick and the lack of engineering inspections.)

3. The lighting just doesn't work for pedestrians. Granted, Chacao is doing something about that. On Francisco de Miranda, the main avenue through that municipality, the city installed two-tier streetlamps with lower lights for peds and higher ones for traffic. Good stuff. Only problem is that the installation took months, during which there was no light at all for a long block of the street. During much of that time sidewalks were also closed for construction, so everyone had to walk in the street behind limp caution tape.

I keep thinking about making flyers to try and rally pedestrians to demand their rights...but further research is needed. I don't even know who we should be making our case to. Like I said, I'll keep you posted.

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