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São Paulo’s Car-Free Sundays

Thursday, September 22, 2022

One of the main streets in São Paulo called Paulista Aberta is set to be car-free on Sundays. The impacts are remarkable, including business growth, more cultural events, tourism activities, and furthermore.

Despite the initial resistance from business owners and residents on the avenue, this decision by the mayor of São Paulo had positive impacts including increased business activities, which was confirmed in a survey by a local NGO. The results of the survey showed that local business owners were 86% in favour of the program with 68% saying there was a positive effect on their businesses.

The avenue has changed dramatically between the 1890s and about 2016. It has evolved from a Europeanized boulevard to a bustling urban hub and financial center, complete with skyscrapers and large shopping malls. Since the car-free program started, further additions to the street are the Japan House, a cultural center dedicated to Japanese immigration, and Instituto Moreira Salles, showcasing Brazilian photography, literature, and music. The avenue isn’t static, it is continuing to change.

The positive impacts of car-free Sundays were not limited to businesses. Other impacts were evident in interviews with people, including the author of a book about the street, an architect from Northeast Brazil, and a Turkish student visiting the street. “About 97% of the visitors and 71% of the residents support the car ban on Sundays. The vast majority of this public (76%) believe the program should actually be expanded to other major streets in the city” NGOs’ report.

Personal Comment:

The built environment should adapt to the needs of its users as time goes by. Streets, just like vehicles and mobile devices, should consider the user experience in their design. Whether this initiative used UX principles or not they have clearly succeeded in making a change that improves the experience of the many different people that are ‘using’ the street. The support from visitors and residents of Paulista Aberta shows how resident’s experience has been positively impacted by the car-free Sundays.

The article points out that initially there was a degree of resistances from authorities and people to the implementation of car-free Sundays. Studies on the impacts of car-free days on other cities such as Paris and Ljubljana can convince the officials of other cities to include such programs in their city planning. Ljubljana has been car-free for over a decade; the example can showcase the long-term impacts of such programs. Now this avenue in São Paulo is another positive example.

Written by Adeleh Mohammadi,
RISE Mobility & System