CUENCA DIGESTCity launches public campaigns to promote the rights of pedestrians and drivers and to improve bus service

Nov 11, 2012

Cuenca has targeted a dozen busy intersections for an information campaign aimed at making pedestrians and drivers aware of traffic laws and to promote better conduct on city street in general.

At the same time, a second campaign aims at making city bus drivers and passengers aware of laws and rules.

According to Julian Maldonado, campaign volunteer for the pedestrian and driver project, the objective is to make citizens more aware of the rules governing pedestrial cross walks, bike lanes, traffic signals and the use of seat belts.

“In Cuenca, we often see a battle between pedestrians and drivers, both thinking they have the right of way,” he says. “What we need is a better understanding of the rules and a better sense of cooperation.”

As examples, Maldonado mentioned that fact that drivers making right turns often to do not yield to pedestrians, as the law requires. On the other hand, he says that jay-walking pedestrians pose a constant hazzard for drivers.

The bus campaign focuses on the rights of the handicapped and the elderly. The city ombudsman’s office says that bus drivers frequently do not allow enough time for some passengers to board buses, and cited 10 citizens complaints against bus drivers.

SAN FRANCISCO PLAZA PROJECT CRITICIZED  BY ARCHITECTS

The reconstruction of the San Francisco Plaza market area, scheduled to break ground in May 2013, has been criticized by several city architects and is being reviewed by UNESCO, the United Nations organization that has designated Cuenca’s historic district as a World Heritage Site.

Current plans call for a four-level project replacing the hodge-podge of metal sales kiosks that currently occupy the plaza. The proposed project will include two underground parking levels, providing space for 200 vehicles, and two levels of shopping space above ground.

Several architects who have been involved in the project say the final design is too modern for the historic district.

"The problem is that we have to maintain the historic integrity of El Centro and respect the archeological and historic nature of the area,” says Monserrath Tello, a member of the City Commission of Historical Center.

Cuenca mayor Paul Granda and members of the city council say that they have considered the historic character of the plaza in their plans. “We have consulted many parties in developing the plans,” the mayor says. “We have talked to representatives from the trades, tourism, industry, as well as historians and architects.”

Fernando Patiño, President of the College of Architects of Azuay says that too many viewpoints were ignored during the planning process. "We had our first look a the plans on September 12, when most of the project had already been decided. We believe that the historical and anthropological studies were mostly ignored.”

Patiño and other architects have forwarded the plans to UNESCO for that organization’s comments. “We need to have their opinion on this issue,” he says.

NATIONAL UNIVERSITY IN AZOGUES WILL BE COMPLETED IN FIVE YEARS

Ecuador’s Education Minister, Gloria Vidal, says that constructoin will begin within two months on the National University of Education in Azogues, 18 miles north of Cuenca.

The project, which will be one of the largest government project in Ecuador's history, will cost almost half a billion dollars and take about five years to complete.

The university is part of President Rafael Correa’s stated goal to improve the country’s public education system and will train teachers for elementary, primary schools and public universities. Correa plans to hire faculty from around the world, particularly Spain. "To build a world-class educational system, we will need a world-class university and the best teachers that we can find," he says.

Photo caption: A clown contributes to the city campaign to promote street rules; San Francisco Plaza will soon be reconstructed.

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