Latin America

One city so far: Santiago. Next 5 cities to come: Havana, Lima, Arequipa, Sao Paulo, and Bogotá. Want me to talk about your city? Let me know.

1. Santiago, Chile

Population6,903,392 (2023 est.)
Population density10,769/km2
Walk share34.5 (2012)
Passenger cars2,117,120 (0.31 per person)
Paulo’s Walk Score (1-10)5

Santiago is great and is the home of the third best of Pablo Neruda’s three houses in Chile. I wrote in some detail about Santiago in a post in another blog in 2017. This is a December 2022 update. I got the impression that car traffic has increased a lot in the last five years. The area around the river is criss-crossed by many busy roads. Even tough there is some nice infrastructure for pedestrians and cyclists, there is still a lot of traffic noise and air pollution, and one cannot walk much before having to cross one or more wide and busy roads.

Riverside, Santiago. © P. Anciaes

On the plus side, there are some good places for recreational walking in Santiago. This includes a huge urban forest, with many trails, some more challenging than others. As usual I ended up using the most challenging one, by mistake. But the views of the city are great.

Downhill in Santiago. © P. Anciaes

Back in the city, some areas have good pedestrian infrastructure and are nice to walk about in early evenings. However, this is mostly in the richer Western parts of the city. In areas with lower income, infrastructure tends to be worse, and it’s more difficult to cross roads and to get away from cars.

Lively walking space in wealthier part of Santiago. © P. Anciaes

The city centre is quite busy with cars and pedestrians, but at junctions, priority is always given to cars, which are assigned much longer times than pedestrians. This causes stress to pedestrians, and many just crosss on red.

Tension at the pedestrian crossing. Santiago © P. Anciaes

In other parts of the city, even when streets are used by few cars, pedestrians still receive very little space to walk.

Street in Santiiago. © P.Anciaes

Overall, this is a huge city, with a diversity of pedestrian environments. It’s not better or worse that other large cities in Latin America. It certainly feels safer (from crime) to walk around in Santiago than in any large Brazilian city (for example). The relatively good pedestrian infrastructure (in comparison with other cities in the region..) and the presence of many people around helps creating this sense of security. But I would say that the city has too many cars, and seems to have more and more, and this is creating environmental problems that make walking less pleasant.

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