Como Anda draws a picture of mobility on foot
A relatively recent issue, mobility on foot in Brazil has found an ally in the Como Anda survey. A partnership between Corrida Amiga and Cidade Ativa, with the support of the iCS, the survey has mapped more than 120 organizations from around the country. The survey identifies types of action, financing and the difficulties faced by organizations, such as lack of funding and formalization. Besides, the site has an area with subject-specific publications and an unprecedented compilation of legislation about mobility on foot at the federal, state and municipal levels (in São Paulo, Belo Horizonte, Rio de Janeiro, Brasília and Recife). Rafaella Basile, of Cidade Ativa, and Andrew Oliveira, of Corrida Amiga, talk more about the survey in this interview to the iCS.
How does Como Anda help the mobility discussion? What are some of its visible results?
Andrew: Its role was to strengthen the identity of the actions dealing with mobility on foot. Many people did not see themselves as active players in this segment and, after Como Anda, they have started to feel closer to other organizations and to the issue of mobility on foot. We have no doubt that this closeness improves their actions.
Rafaella: We have seen results. For example, there is an organization called A Pezito in Porto Alegre that encourages school children to walk home from school. Here in São Paulo, Carona a Pé does the same thing, Exploradores Urbanos takes children on walks all over the city. One did not know about the other and now they have told us that they are in contact, bouncing ideas off each other. Como Anda has allowed this exchange of knowledge among organizations from different corners of Brazil. We noticed along the way that it would be necessary to make this information more accessible to the public, so that people could understand that mobility on foot can mean many things, in many different ways.
What challenges did you encounter while implementing the survey?
A: One of the main challenges was to get to other states, especially in the North and Northeast. Besides, it was difficult to find older organizations that encourage mobility on foot, which are not on social networks. We also had to face certain limitations people had in responding to the questionnaire, which was relatively dense.
R: Between January and April we carried out a pre-mapping of the organizations that promote mobility on foot, directly and indirectly, looking for them on social networks, on our lists and on our partners’ contact lists. As we are based in São Paulo, many of our contacts are concentrated here. Our concern was that the survey would show this bias. So we made an effort to contact partners elsewhere to identify local institutions and initiatives, so that we could have a more accurate number of mapped organizations. One of the strategies to reach these organizations was to begin to publicize the work on social networks. Other than that, we made posts that targeted other states and began to sponsor these posts on Facebook.
A: A key aid came from our collaborators, who promoted the survey and provided critical evaluation. We have always been open to build this survey in the most collaborative way possible, since Anda is an effort of the Cidade Ativa and Corrida Amiga organizations, but it is also the result of listening to mobility on foot agents.
R: Early on, even before we had decided on the name of the survey, we did a workshop with partners, several of them from Rio de Janeiro. We discussed their vision for the mobility on foot scenario and that gave us clues about what we should ask in the questionnaire and also allowed us to run a pre-test of the questionnaire on those partners.
Does the profile of the organizations involve social network presence?
R: Most of the organizations have an online presence, a website, a Facebook profile. This is part of our methodological approach. We did not intend to take to the field [only] to find these organizations. We also made the effort to get in touch with older organizations, which are not as connected, but that we know still exist. Those are important organizations, such as the São Paulo Pedestrians Association, which is 40 years old. We called several times to be able to map them. It took real detective work.
Most institutions are located in São Paulo. Why does this region play such a leading role?
R: The way the survey was designed, we cannot be sure whether this was a bias due to our approach, or if São Paulo does play a leading role in the issue of mobility on foot. But it did raise certain possibilities in that regard. The changes that were proposed by the Haddad administration brought mobilization to the general issue of mobility. In São Paulo, the cycle-activism movement is very strong and the mobility on foot issue is closely related to cycle-activism.
A: There’s the matter of the Municipal Mobility Plan. The 2014 Master Plan includes the concept of mobility on foot network, the Municipal Mobility Plan of São Paulo, it involved a whole movement of organizations here in the city. There is a fertile landscape around mobility issues, the reoccupation of public space, which is receptive to mobility on foot actions.
R: When mobility on foot is discussed, it is because other fields have reached a degree of maturity that allows us to move forward. This issue is so wide and so complex that it is easier to talk about public transportation or cycling, which are more tangible, more feasible. São Paulo is a city that has already advanced in the issue of public transportation and, more recently, in the issue of cycling, and it now reaches a point in time when it begins to discuss mobility on foot. The cycle-activism movement has had many victories and it is now time to seek the same level of success in the mobility on foot arena.
What other cities stand out?
R: Four capital cities are relevant. Recife has an important cycle-activism movement and has several mapped organizations. Brasília, Curitiba and Belo Horizonte also have several organizations. Rio de Janeiro actually proved to be a disappointment. We thought it would have a profile similar to São Paulo, but it is not as mobilized.
What initiatives stand out in São Paulo that could apply to other cities?
R: In São Paulo there are many organizations working with public policies, architecture and urbanism. São Paulo has advanced a lot in recent years with Associação de Mobilidade a Pé and Cidade a Pé. In other cities there is the wish to form associations to represent pedestrians. No other capital city has similar initiatives yet.
A: Many of these organizations were inspired by the work of the cycle-activism movement. The path taken by these cycle-activisms, which by now have had visible achievements, inspires others to fight for the rights of pedestrians and for a more walkable city. In Recife, we had the opportunity to get to know very significant cases of organizations that are engaged in cycle-mobility, but that are also sensitive to the cause of mobility on foot, due to the obvious and necessary proximity between the two causes.
R: In Mexico, a country with a strong ongoing mobility debate, this is what happened. The mobility on foot movement came from the cycle-activism movement. And research gives us some signs that active mobility should be united and discussed together. They are very similar issues, with many points in common.
Most institutions have been created recently. Is this a reflection of the importance that this issue has gained lately?
R: From the year 2013, there has been a boom of organizations dealing with this issue both directly or indirectly. Why is the mobility on foot movement so young when compared, for example, with the cycle-activism movement, which has been going on for more than a decade? In 2012 we had the National Urban Mobility Plan, which addressed the issue of cycle-mobility and mobility on foot. In 2013, we had Jornadas de Junho, which greatly influenced the mobility discussions in the cities. Other than that, with the Haddad administration, we had the emergence of several bike paths and basic infrastructure in the city [of São Paulo]. A relevant fact is that organizations focused on mobility on foot have mostly been [created] from 2013. It takes some ripening of the discussions before we can talk specifically about structures for pedestrians.
Within that timeline, what were the most significant events?
A: The National Urban Mobility Plan for sure, as it includes mobility on foot as a priority in the mobility pyramid, along with cycle-mobility. And, of course, the issue of public transportation is highlighted, with the obligation of municipalities with more than 25,000 inhabitants to prepare municipal plans in light of such guidelines. Another important – and more recent – fact is the Brazilian Inclusion Law, which places central importance on the issue of accessibility in cities. It is worth highlighting the International Seminar Cidades a Pé, held last year, which was a very significant event, leading to national and international discussion benchmarks and placing the issue on the public agenda. Besides, our cities have been adopting policies to promote mobility on foot and to activate public areas. Another important example at the municipal level are the X tracks, in São Paulo and Fortaleza. In fact, there has been a recent concentration [of events], which is related to the maturity of that discussion. We hope that even more milestones will appear in 2016 and 2017, and that the work of the organizations will grow. We are sure that Como Anda will be useful in this scenario.
What are your plans for the future of Como Anda?
R: We are confident that the mapping must continue. We know there are still corners of Brazil we did not reach. Our entire site was designed to be updated automatically. This means that we can look forward to having a long life without manual work. At this time, we are organizing a workshop to discuss results and to draw up a mobility on foot action plan, since we now have data on this scenario. With this, we hope to discover the vocation of Como Anda and the role it should play in the years to come. We believe that Como Anda can go much further, both by taking this discussion to other places in Brazil where it is still not strong enough, and also by exchanging experiences with successful international movements.
A: There is no shortage of challenges.
The Como Anda survey was published in Folha de São Paulo, see it here.