Even though it was just for a day, Cuencanos got a real-life glimpse of what a pedestrian-friendly El Centro will look like on Friday.
Early Friday morning, a group of architects, university students and city workers laid down grass on one lane of Presidente Borrero between Sucre and Bolivar. They positioned benches on the grass and placed potted plants along the border. Many of those doing the heavy lifting arrived on bikes, which they parked on the new green space.
Meanwhile, police directed traffic around the installation and pedestrians marveled at the new concept unveiled two weeks ago by a group of Spanish urban planners (to read more, click here).
“This is fabulous,” said Stephanie Anderson, a British tourist staying at the adjacent Santa Lucia Hotel. “I just saw a map of the plan and it’s very much like what we are seeing in Europe today. I think Cuenca is on the right track.”
Maria Delia Bermeo, part of the collective of students and professionals involved in the project, said that the intention was to “allow people to visualize what an El Centro street will look like when it emphasizes walkers and bikers and not cars.”
Under the plan submitted by the planners, Borrero will be one of the streets that allows some vehicular traffic. “We cannot eliminate cars altogether but this shows how they can coexists with pedestrians and bicycles,” Bermeo said.
Under the plan, some historic district streets will become pedestrian malls, allowing no vehicular traffic at all, while others, like Borrero, will allow some traffic although with speed-dampening devices.
“I really like the idea,” said José María Tobar, who happened to pass by and stopped to sit on one of the benches. “Now, it’s not comfortable to walk around town during the week because of the traffic. This makes it easier and there’s not as much pollution,” he said.
Although several passersby said they liked the idea, they questioned its feasibility due to the heavy traffic in El Centro. Bermeo and others explained that restrictions would be placed on the amount of traffic allowed under the new plan. “There will have to be changes to the way things are done now, but those are necessary to make the city a more pleasant place to live and work.”