According to Ecuador’s census bureau, Cuencanos walk more than residents of any other of Ecuador’s five largest cities.
The National Institute of Statistics and Census (INEC) says that 7.7% of Cuenca’s population walks as a primary means of transportation. This contrasts with 3% pedestrianism for Quito, Guayaquil, Machala and Santo Domingo.
Census statistics also show that 60% of Cuencanos use buses as the main means transportation, 3% use bicycles and the balance use private vehicles. According the census bureau, Cuenca, incidentally, has the highest per capita rate of car ownership of any city in Ecuador.
Sebastian Izquierdo, director of Cuenca’s Environmental Management Commission, says most of the city’s walking is in the historic district. “The main reason people choose to walk in El Centro is that vehicular traffic is so heavy that it’s usually quicker to get to a destination on foot.”
Cuenca expat Stan Romo says there’s another why Cuencanos like to hoof it. “This is a relatively compact city and it’s easy to get to the places you need to go on foot. This is especially true for expats and is one of the reasons most of us don’t have cars.”
Izquierdo says he expects even more pedestrians on the streets of the historic district in the coming years. The city’s master transportation plan includes the conversion of several streets to pedestrian malls and possible restrictions on private vehicles. The new light rail system, scheduled to be operational in 2015, will also reduce bus and taxi traffic in the district, Izquierdo says.
Another reason more pedestrians may hit Cuenca streets, says Juan Ortiz of the city’s transportation authority office, is the improving quality of city sidewalks. “In the last three years, we’ve rebuilt 25 kilometers of sidewalks and we plan to rebuild another 35 within the next three years.”