How Porto is tuning the fine balance to design concepts for its public spaces while reconquering the city

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Porto City Hall has presented a plan to boost a new shopping experience in town, under the recovery of the economy, amid the ongoing pandemic. The Municipality of Porto wants to win back public spaces, and it will do so through footpaths, bicycle paths and soft transports modes. 

In mid-June, downtown Porto and the Historic city centre will be transformed into pedestrian areas on weekends, and the bicycle paths will be extended by another 35 km by the end of the year, with bicycle racks installed in secure parking areas and on the public road.

The smart technology mobility came into force in the beginning of this month, with electric scooters set to go and ride through town. Also, fairs and markets are back, starting 19th June, in a phased way. The plan presented by the sector includes safety measures and the City Hall is also preparing a document to support the reopening of these activities.

The plan for mobility, trade and leisure, whose goal is to boost and stimulate the city's occupation of public space, was announced on 29th May, at a press conference held at the City Hall Council Chamber.

The Mayor of Porto stated that this strategy "shares a concern that the population has manifested for quite some time", as "people are interested in other type of relationship with the city".

The recent measures implemented in the Atlantic avenues and in the waterfront areas in Porto, with the coexistence zones in place, are such an example, affirmed Rui Moreira.

In this regard, this integrated plan will work as a test, amid the pandemic, when economic activities must be resumed calmly and safely. "It is the motto for the city to think of itself, on how it wants to exist and coexist. Nevertheless, there are other ideas we have to bring citizens closer to the public space, which was taken by automobile traffic", the Mayor further enhanced.

In this plan to win back public space to the citizens, the Municipality highlights such advantages as health and safety, by encouraging pedestrianisation and the use of soft transport modes, which are a plus when it comes to the much needed social distancing rule nowadays; also, regarding leisure and enjoyment, by offering a different approach to the city; and sustainability, by decreasing the use of cars, choosing soft transport modes and thus reducing CO2 pollution levels and bottlenecks.

Downtown and historic centre pedestrian areas on weekends

The choice of places is linked to the already strong pedestrian habits in those areas in the city, thus conferring diversity and dynamism to urban public space and safeguarding pedestrian safety.

This measure enters into force on 19th June and will encompass the operative areas in the centre of Porto, in a total of 14 roads/streets. Between 8am Saturday and 8pm Sunday, the following roads/streets will be conditioned to car traffic:

Zone 1

- Rua de Cedofeita (which will be pedestrian to its full extent during this period), Rua de Miguel Bombarda and Rua do Breyner;

- In the Movida area, the Rua das Carmelitas, Rua de Conde de Vizela, Rua da Fábrica, Rua de Santa Teresa and Rua de Avis (which add to the already existing temporary pedestrian areas in ruas de Cândido dos Reis and Galerias de Paris);

- Rua do Almada and Rua da Conceição;

- Rua de Passos Manuel (Full extent).

Zone 2

- Passeio das Virtudes;

- Rua do Dr. Barbosa de Castro.;

* Access to the parking lot is still permitted.

Zone 3

- Rua dos Caldeireiros;

- Avenida Rodrigues de Freitas.

New detachable and temporary street furniture will be put in place for a better enjoyment of the public space, as stated by Pedro Baganha, councillor for Urbanism at Porto City Hall. Access to residents and traders to each of the 14 streets is safeguarded.

The green areas will also bloom in this spaces. "There will be trees, where once there were none", affirmed the deputy Mayor of Porto City Hall, Filipe Araújo, also in charge of Innovation and Environment.

By the end of the year, Porto City Hall foresees an extension of the bicycle paths in about 35 km, to a total network of 54 km, as stated by Cristina Pimentel, councillor for Transports.

This process will connect both the eastern and the western parts of the city of Porto in a bicycle path network.

Regarding the Avenida da Boavista, the intention is to put the bicycle paths on the road, away from the parking areas.

The Municipality will provide 130 parking places for bicycles in secured parks, which can double or triple according to the needs, explained Cristina Pimentel. Besides, the Municipality of Porto already has 72 bicycle ranks, with 521 parking spaces available.