July 18, 2019

Learning from Each Other in Fortaleza


225 Transport and Development Experts from 48 Cities in 21 Countries gathered in Fortaleza, Brazil to celebrate, study, and work to replicate the city’s high impact, low cost interventions at the 2019 MOBILIZE summit.



Mayors and city officials discussed the cost of re-humanizing cities in Fortaleza, Minneapolis, and Bogotá. The panelists discussed the challenges of building political will and gaining consensus, and the power of civic pride in changing minds. Mayor Roberto Claudio explained how winning the STA gave Fortaleza encouragement for the work it was doing but also pushed the city to do more to prepare for the MOBILIZE Summit. Lisa Bender, Minneapolis City Council President pointed out:

“When I received pushback for “open streets,” I stuck with my beliefs even when they were deemed radical. I accompanied my bold vision with incremental change, which was the key. The open streets did not change people’s mode share but it did open their imaginations to see what their streets could be”

The global reality of climate change is real and already affecting people’s lives. ITDP CEO Heather Thompson explained, “With unprecedented heat waves, floods, and invasive species the world is already witnessing the effects of climate change.” These unpredictable and devastating weather events are only going to increase and become harder to manage. What is clear is that mayors and city leaders will be on the front lines of managing the human cost of climate change while federal and national governments will remain in charge of budgets and rules about carbon emissions and climate policy.  Former Santiago Governor, Claudio Orrego explained how for Santiago, a previous STA winner and host of MOBILIZE in 2017, handled natural disasters. For example, when a flood occurred, the city focused on-the-ground solutions like buying buckets and receptacles for water to manage water accumulation. He explained that some of the most useful solutions can also be the simplest.

Key to mitigating climate change is getting motor vehicles off of the road by moving people with other forms of transportation, and making vehicles less polluting. During a discussion at MOBILIZE, Ana Nassar of ITDP Brazil explained how the mindset of both people and politicians needs to redefine the dream of owning a car.

“While in so many countries car ownership is seen as a signifier of wealth and therefore something that people aspire to, this dream of car ownership needs to be replaced with another dream that doesn’t include private car ownership. We need a new dream.”

Transforming a car ownership mentality so radically includes creating spaces that are accessible on foot. Walking is the cheapest form of transportation, and as Herrie Schalekamp, of the University of Cape Town, explained, like in the United States, the poorest people in South Africa spend a disproportionately large amount of expenditure on transportation. People would rather walk, but it is not viable in cities with pedestrian hostile infrastructure.

Changing people’s minds takes seeing the change in action. Many former mayors and city officials spoke of how temporary ‘open streets’ days helped people see the potential of fully pedestrianized spaces. This change in imagination required showing people in cities what their streets could really be if they had space for more than just cars.  Some ways of changing politicians’ minds are strikingly simple. For example, in Chennai, the ITDP team took the Commissioner on a walk around the city in the middle of the day. His experience, traversing the hostile or nonexistent sidewalks one time completely transformed his perspective. He now supports their measures and is an advocate for pedestrian spaces. This small example shows how political will has to be tackled head on, but doesn’t take complicated solutions. Other modest actions can make large impacts. Laeticia Dablanc explained how solutions are sometimes better unseen. For instance – in Paris certain policies have forced the freight industry to innovate in unforeseen ways like delivering goods at night, when traffic is lighter, or having warehouses within city limits to decrease the amount of distance needed to travel. She mentioned that a cultural mindset is also necessary – when people no longer expect items next day, freight can be decreased.


Workshops and Site Visits

During the afternoons of MOBILIZE, attendees were offered opportunities to visit the various interventions throughout Fortaleza. The progress in pedestrian safety is staggering. Since 2014, there has been a 40% reduction in fatalities and injuries from road crashes. Tactical urban interventions, like temporary reclaimed space for people have been hugely impactful. Many have become permanent interventions, and foot traffic and feelings of safety have both increased in the areas of the interventions.


Cycle Fortaleza


Tactical Urbanism


Walk Fortaleza


Fortaleza’s Bus Improvements


Bringing the Experience Home

On the final day of MOBILIZE, participants had an opportunity to work together to iron out some of the most complex themes discussed during the preceding days. In small groups, attendees were able to go over what had been discussed and dig further into some of the challenging questions of the topic. Workshops were hosted and presented by members of ITDP staff as well as other transportation experts.


Cultural Exchange



On the final day of MOBILIZE, Pune, India was announced the winner of the 2020 STA and Jakarta, Indonesia was given an honorable mention. Pune was chosen for its work in public transport, with a robust BRT, increased pedestrian infrastructure, parking policy, and strong commitment to improving mobility. Pune is a leader among Indian cities and will host the 2020 MOBILIZE summit. Read more about Pune here.


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