Pedro Alves Nave, Associate Coordinator of the Lisbon Pedestrian Accessibility Plan Team

How do you design cities for people not cars?




Moving from car-centred to pedestrian-friendly
Cars used to be king in Lisbon as the entire city and its adjacent areas catered to a car owner’s needs – leaving pedestrians out of the equation. This is starting to change. As a first step, we joined the FLOW project and established the Pedestrian Accessibility Plan. These projects have provided the basis for pedestrians to enter the centre stage and alter the way we evaluate and prioritise interventions regarding Lisbon’s infrastructure.
Street level crossings for more pedestrian safety
One important project that I worked on is the re-design of the arterial road Descobertas Avenue leading from the western part of the city into the neighbourhood of Campo de Ourique. This road is particularly busy and frequented by pedestrians because it serves as a collector for children and adults heading to the near-by hospital or to one of the schools located within proximity. Subway stations, respectively bus stops, are also situated along the road and contribute to a high number of street crossings.

“Working on projects to realise the Pedestrian Accessibility Plan is a demanding and rewarding task at the same time. My job is to make Lisbon’s infrastructure work for everyone and create a liveable urban space for every citizen.”


Accessibility and safety go hand in hand
As the over- and underpasses were equipped with stairs, they could not be used by everyone and had a low efficacy as safety devices. The staircases were a physical obstacle for families with small children or pedestrians using mobility aids. To avoid them, people used to cross the street directly. Ignoring the designated crossings may seem understandable at first. Yet, it endangers not only the pedestrians, but also the drivers hitting the brakes abruptly and possibly causing a major accident.
Extended green light intervals for pedestrians and broader pavements
To solve the situation, we built more pedestrian crossings along Descobertas Avenue. Now people have various options to get to the other side of the street. Depending on where they want to go, they can always choose the closest crossing. The different crossings are not too far away from each other making it convenient for everyone to use them, no matter where they are headed to.
We also improved the pedestrian crossings that already existed on street level near Saint Joseph School, Restelo Secondary School, Park International School and Hospital São Francisco Xavier in terms of safety: The on-demand traffic lights now have extended green light intervals and a larger traffic island provides enough space for pedestrians to wait for the next green light. To further reduce the amount of potential accidents, speed limits for cars were set up to prevent that drivers go too fast.
Along with these interventions, we also broadened the pavement in front of the three schools. Now one lane on each side of the road is reserved for kiss-and-ride. Here, parents can safely drop off or pick up their kids without having to worry the children open the car door directly to the vehicles passing by. Instead, they can walk safely from the park-and-ride lane to the walkway.
From detailed simulation to successful implementation
All interventions go back to one tool that I used to model them on a microscopic level: the 3D animations in PTV Vissim provided me with several different options, out of which we chose the best ones. The animations have a huge convincing power for stakeholders and decision makers. Modelling and visualising really make a difference. Instead of merely focusing on the number of cars on Descobertas Avenue, the modelling software also takes pedestrian traffic into account and visualises the hazards for non-motorised road users. This changed the way we evaluated the situation and is an important step to move away from a car-centred point of view.
More about Pedro
Pedro Alves Nave works as an Associate Coordinator of the Pedestrian Accessibility Plan at the city of Lisbon. Together with Pedro Homem de Gouveia he has realised many infrastructure projects with the goal to turn Portugal’s capital into a safer, more sustainable and accessible city for everyone.
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