Seven Ways Belo Horizonte, Brazil Inspires Sustainable Cities
Belo Horizonte, Brazil is a city of remarkable cuisine, green spaces, and architecture. The city is increasingly designed using people-oriented urban development strategies that prioritize the people who make the city come alive.
Even for outsiders, this state capital feels like home. A number of initiatives are transforming the city into an example of best practices for sustainable transport, people-oriented spaces, and resilience to landslides and floods. In honor of the city’s 117th birthday, here are seven things worth celebrating about Belo Horizonte:
1. Making room for people
Paraná street – located in the city’s center – provides one of the best examples of how to revitalize urban spaces. Before its transformation, the avenue was a space for cars. Today, it is designed to better serve pedestrians, public transport, and cyclists.
2. High quality public transport
Launched about one year ago, Belo Horizonte’s MOVE bus rapid transit (BRT) system was planned according to international best practices with support from EMBARQ Brasil. Designed to be the city’s official transport system for the World Cup, the MOVE BRT system still benefits 480,000 people every day even without the influx of tourists.
3. Making bicycling easier
Belo Horizonte has more than 70 km (43 miles) of bike paths. Initiatives such as Pedal BH, BH in Cycle, and Belo Horizonte’s Bike Angel program help promote cycling as an alternative means of transport. The city also has 400 public bicycles, available at 40 stations through its Bike BH bike-share program.
4. More green spaces that make for a more enjoyable city
With more than 40 public parks, Belo Horizonte has 18 square meters (194 square feet) of green space per inhabitant. Spaces conducive to leisure, physical activity, and cultural interaction are critical to quality of life and public health. Research shows that well-kept city parks and green areas make people happier.
5. Resilience efforts recognized by the United Nations
There have been no recorded deaths in Belo Horizonte due to landslides since 2003, and there have only been three deaths from flooding in the past three years. In 2013, the city won the U.N. Sasakawa Award, which is the world’s largest prize for resilient cities. The city’s main natural challenges are its hilly terrain and 700 km (435 miles) of streams, which makes it prone to flooding and landslides. Transport systems must also be prepared for these risks. One of the keys to Belo Horizonte’s improved resilience was the creation of the Risk Areas Executive Group (GEAR), which convenes city government agencies and officials every Monday to discuss and plan mitigation actions.
6. Pedestrianized streets
Cities are our homes, at least for over half the world’s population. Residents interact with the urban environment every day, whether walking on the streets, riding public transport, or in their car. It is essential that cities create people-oriented spaces that encourage social interaction.
7. Bonus: The sunset is beautiful
Belo Horizonte’s Mangabeiras Lookout provides a first-class view of the sensational sunset over the city. It is a must-see for those visiting Belo Horizonte. TheCityFix Brasil – partner blog of TheCityFix – accompanied the winner of its “city in an instant” photo competition, Eduardo Beltrame, who chose a visit to Belo Horizonte as his prize for winning the competition.
WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities works to make urban sustainability a reality. Global research and on-the-ground experience in Brazil, China, India, Mexico, Turkey and the United States combine to spur action that improves life for millions of people.