Thursday, December 17, 2009

Walking in Ecuador (the Good)

Okay, we've established that Ecuador has some challenges when it comes to the pedestrian environment. But what about its successes? As I observed in my jaunts through cities large and small, in many places Ecuador has really done things right.

Consider this street in Quito's New Town:
Note the street furniture, large trees, and narrow roadway. The bricks are a nice touch also, though I wonder if they present any type of maintenance or accessibility problems.

Even better is this street in Banos: What I loved the most about this street (aside from the fact that cars are allowed only half of the space the pedestrians enjoy--take that Ventura Boulevard with your seven travel lanes and narrow sidewalks) was the perfectly proportioned mixed-use buildings on either side. With shops below (that blend so well with residences above that my husband didn't even realize the housing was there, and kept asking where people actually lived in Banos), this street shows us density as it should be done.

But perhaps most exciting to me were the pedestrian streets like this one that littered the roadway network in Quito's Old Town:
About half the streets in this part of town were limited to walkers only, or opened only occasionally to vehicle traffic. Add to this numerous plazas, colonial architecture, and narrow one-way streets, and you can understand why--even with Quito's fancy BRT system--we usually opted to travel on foot.

And this was only in the cities. In many of the rural areas we visited vehicles were so rare that the question of who the roadways belonged to (vehicles or people) was moot. Pedestrians (and sheep, and chickens, and horses) embraced the streets and footpaths as their own, only rarely interrupted by the passage of a motorcyle or an inter-city bus. If only Angelenos had it so good.

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