Western Harbour Malmo

Curitiba, Brazil

A city for people, not for cars

Some statements about Curitiba:

  1. Curitiba has the highest recycling rate in the World – 70%.
  2. Curitiba has bus system that is so good that car traffic decreased by 30% while the population trebled in a twenty year period.
  3. Curitiba has the largest downtown pedestrianised shopping area in the World.
  4. Curitiba has built large numbers of beautiful parks to control floods rather than concrete canals. So many that they use sheep to cut the grass as it’s cheaper than lawnmowers.
  5. Curitiba is a city where 99% of inhabitants want to live. In comparison, 70% of Sao Paolo’s residents want to live in Curitiba.
  6. Curitiba’s average income per person has gone from less than the Brazilian average in the 1970’s to 66% greater than the Brazilian average.
BRT Curitiba

Any of these statements on their own would be impressive enough, but together? Curitiba surely must be one of the World's most sustainable cities.

Can any city, anywhere else in the world, at any time in history boast anything that comes anywhere near to this amazing transformation to a city for people?

Maybe one – Bogota. They did it by copying Curitiba, but that’s a different story.

Jaime Lerner

Jaime Lerner first became mayor of Curitiba in the early 1970’s (he has been mayor three times). His leadership was crucial to the changes. Curitiba did a number of things, best described here:

  1. Built parks instead of canals to reduce flooding. Also used parks to make the city more liveable.
  2. Pedestrianised the downtown area.
  3. Invented and built the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) – a bus system that works like a light rail system but is 10 times cheaper.
  4. Gave people bus tokens in return for waste.
  5. Started a massive recycling scheme – all initiated by children.
Botanical Gardens Curitiba

Jaime Lerner and Curitiba have done more to influence my ideas of what to build and how to make cities for people than anyone else.

There is so much that can be said about Curitiba. I recommend watching Jaime Lerner’s excellent TED presentation Sing a Song of Sustainable Cities, watching this video and reading this article from the New York Times.

If you’re really interested there’s a great film "A CONVENIENT TRUTH: Urban Solutions from Curitiba, Brazil" describing what happened with some fascinating insights from Jaime Lerner and other key people.

I also recommend the book "Urban Renewal, Municipal Revitalization: The Case of Curitiba, Brazil" which has some really in depth analysis.