17.09.2021

Is your city made for walking?

Pedestrians

Pedestrians at Avenida 4 in San Jose Photo: GIZ / Proyecto MiTransporte / Pablo Cambronero

Costa Rica has wonderful natural public spaces and it is famous worldwide for its beaches and protected areas. However, the public spaces in the urbanized context -with a few exceptions- lack universal accessibility, are poorly designed and are not well connected to public transport facilities.

An inter-institutional initiative, supported by civil society and Deutschen Gesellschaft für internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), promoted a legal framework to foster active mobility and intermodal travels. As a result, Costa Rica published its Cycling Safety and Mobility Law (2019) and its Pedestrian Mobility Law (2021) as well as complementary regulations and technical norms, all supported by the IKI-project ’Mitigation actions in the transport sector in Costa Rica (MiTransporte)’. Based on this, municipalities are now obliged to provide walking and cycling infrastructure within their territories, for which central budget is being devolved to the local level.

To fill the gap between the new legal conditions and the installed technical capacity of the municipalities, the Costa Rican Institute for Municipal Development and Advisory Services (IFAM) and GIZ developed the Active Mobilty App (IMA) as part of MiTransporte.

Detailed analysis of the conditions

IMA uses a series of indicators to develop a diagnosis of pedestrian infrastructure, cycling paths, parks and plazas. The web-based tool functions as a digital platform that is available for all the municipalities of the country. It aims to speed up the decision-making process regarding road and public space interventions and therefore facilitates the assessment of walking, cycling and public space conditions.

The tool has three assessment categories: 1. Walkability and universal accessibility, 2. Cycling compatibility and 3. Public spaces. Each category measures several indicators such as sidewalk width, lighting, effective use of space, level of service, geometry of the space. After on-site and georeferenced data collection using OpenStreetMap, the app provides a general assessment for the project and specific grades for the chosen indicators. 

Real time results

“IMA shows results in real time through maps and numerical data” sums up Eduardo Picado, a member of the development team from IFAM. 

The results provide information for municipal technicians to decide where and how to prioritize design variables and investments for the improvement of baseline conditions. IMA also serves as a monitoring tool to measure the quality of the space before and after municipal works.

“With IMA we were able to rate our infrastructure for active mobility as good, fair and poor. With this information we planned our future interventions and budget” adds Cynthia Rosales from the Municipality of San José.

IMA is part of a strategy to pilot a set of measures with municipalities in the Metropolitan Area of San José and to replicate them later in the whole country. Currently, the GIZ-IFAM team works on promoting the use of the tool in local governments across Costa Rica, hoping to witness in the future the impact of IMA in new build infrastructure for everyone.