Eight lessons from Buenos Aires for the Portland of tomorrow

buenos aires

Editor’s note: This is a guest post from contributor Aaron Brown, who’s about to return from a trip to South America. On his Twitter feed tonight, Aaron started rattling off observations about Buenos Aires that I couldn’t resist asking to republish.

Here’s what Aaron had to say about Argentina’s largest metro area, population 12.8 million – far larger than the Portland of today, but with plenty of ideas for the Portland of tomorrow.

bike tricks

  1. Astonishingly high mode share for folding bikes (20 percent?), especially Bromptons.
  2. Many, many intersections in neighborhoods with no stop signs in ANY direction. Would never fly in litigious America, but calms barrio streets!
  3. Despite being an expensive city, any ride on the Buenos Aires Subte is two and a half pesos, or roughly 50 cents. Subsidies I can get behind.
  4. Porteño friend noted that four years ago, none of the now ubiquitous separated bike facilities existed. Progress can happen fast.
  5. Higher density avenidas leads to busier sidewalks, which encourages street life, encourages pedestrianism. I walked 30 miles this week.
  6. Feels like nearly 30 percent of traffic are taxis. Cabs are clearly a key component of a low-car city.
  7. massive crosswalkDespite being the widest road on Earth (so Porteños claim) Av. 9 de Julio, the busy one with the Obelisk, is actually quite pedestrian friendly, because the gazillion lanes of autos are interrupted by major crosswalks every 150 meters or so, with tons of pedestrian traffic. I cannot imagine any thoroughfare in America with so many lanes being such a pleasant place to be outside of an automobile.
  8. Americans have HUGE CARS. Like, REALLY BIG compared to ANYWHERE else. Though unsexy (and liable to greenwashing charges), a movement for smaller cars would have public health and economic-efficiency benefits. You’d hope $4 gas would use Adam Smith’s invisible hand to push Americans into smaller cars. Any other way to incentivize car smallness?

For more from Aaron, follow our monthly commuting podcast – he’ll be joining us next week to talk about everything low-car commuters need to know about Portland’s hot local elections.

Creative Commons Av. 9 de Julio photo by Nicolás Lope de Barrios. Bicycle photo by Lionel Fernandez Roca. Crosswalk photo by Gustavo Gomes.

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