Safety 2016 World Conference – Tampere, Finland.

12th World Conference on Injury Prevention and Safety Promotion

The main theme for Safety 2016 was “From Research to Implementation», experts in injury prevention and safety promotion recognized the need for action, knowledge and practice were not consistently applied to policies and programs in the field. 

My abstract «Healthy public space as basic principle for walkability in Mexico City» was approved as an oral presentation at the Conference:

Mexico City has 16 local boroughs, there are 20 million people: 9 million habitants plus 11 million sprawled people who are users to the city. Only 24% of the population drives a car, thus an increasing demand for space has been taken by 5 million cars! Public financial resources are mainly focused on gray infrastructure, I mean motorized roads, rather than enhancing public space where most of the people commute, like walking. As you can see, approximately 70% of these people who are pedestrians are not being considered; also they use a bike or mostly walk to public transport.

Gustavo A. Madero Borough (GAM) is located northeast Mexico City, with 1.2 habitants; it is the second most populated part of Mexico City. Also, has 8 out of 49 public transport hubs, which move 1.4 million users. Users commute from GAM to the rest of the city, but GAM is also a destination since there is educational, medical and office infrastructure.

What is healthy public space?

Public space has been studied from different theory perspectives. Health Promotion is sustained by research and intervention. Literature that I reviewed has not related Health Promotion to public space. For this case, Health Promotion advocates for pedestrians –the vulnerable road users, because walkability matters: the goal is to implement health in public spaces for the benefit of pedestrians by recognizing walkability, optimized pedestrian infrastructures, government accountability and people’s involvement, as a means to reaching healthy public spaces. 

Pedestrians are vulnerable city users

Their needs are not being met! Concerted effort is needed to make pedestrian infrastructure safe in order to reduce injuries, but mostly, the health promotion perspective advocates for public spaces, which provide an intense feeling of satisfaction as we walk and spend more time in the city, so it can become more livable! The condition of pavements has an obvious impact on the ability to walk. “Inadequate pavements are reported as an almost universal problem.” The importance of a sidewalk: the basic means for walkability, therefore the principle for accomplishing healthy public space! FACT! Many streets in Mexico City have no one responsible for taking care of them, no authority or citizens. There is a disconnection between regulation and executive actions in Mexico City.

Safe Communities

I am thankful to present this case study that started in 2009, and bring my local voice into this Safety World Conference, realizing that what happens in my environment is what might be happening in other cities too. My abstract on Safe Communities shows a negative experience in producing health in public space: a sidewalk in GAM, a case study. 

Since 2009, I have targeted efforts to produce a healthy public space through a case study aimed to regenerate a long sidewalk with 45 years of decay, that runs along an urban high-way. It’s the daily walkway of twelve hundred students because their school is surrounded by this public space. Who is responsible for restoring this public space?

The school community said through a survey that it is the authorities and the students themselves, the responsible ones. With this binomial outcome, the intervention began. I met with 12 government agencies and 25 officials in 2009 and 2010. It is important to note that the health sector is disconnected from pedestrian safety.

Research and practice: authorities and students

The students gained awareness that a safe community within their surrounding leads to healthy lives. Once identified the authorities, the students wrote letters, made posters and met with the officials obligated to rehab the public space. Central government issued to the local borough officials the technical guidelines and indicated the monetary quote needed to restore the sidewalk. In 2011, we incorporated a budgetary allocation of about 90K€ at the Legislative Assembly. But GAM government, which implemented an arbitrary public work that lasted six months, which resulted in a poorly executed pedestrian infrastructure that remains unsafe to this day, disregarded our effort. 

Regulation scenario 

The Mobility Law was issued in 2014 and the New Transit Regulation in 2015 –both of which give priority to pedestrians. This issue is well recognized in some government entities, but its application remains disregarded and dispersed. In GAM, the local government is stuck in cycles of clientelism (you know, based on the principle take-there, give-there). Where ordinary citizens are not entitled to make their rights effective. So, citizens cannot take the leadership for what they expect from the city!

This health-oriented process has lasted over 7 years. In GAM, our needs as pedestrians are not being met! GAM has to be compelled to respond to people’s involvement for safe walkability, so as to achieve healthy public spaces. But, pedestrian risk remains high because of a weak institutional framework.

A healthy sidewalk in Mexico City!

Since 2013, we have worked to fix the sidewalk AGAIN! By fixing pavements, including a complete-street design and green infrastructure based on a constructed watershed that would operate as a water treatment plant. The project is named “The healthy sidewalk in Mexico City”. Currently we are working with a central government entity to make it possible.  Citizens must champion healthy public spaces in GAM and the whole city! Pedestrian oriented financing is worth investing in, that can have a wide range of positive outcomes! Health promotion strategies unite actors to create walkable environments devoted towards healthy public space!

I do not want to miss the chance to share some pics regarding Tampere´s public space: wide sidewalks, safe pedestrian crossing, parks and beautiful landscapes.

Tampere is also the home to the Moomin Museum, there you can find a fine selection of Jansson´s original illustrations and some dioramas which remind us the serie seen on tv. You cannot take pictures, but this was the closest visual I could get.

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