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24 June 2013 / leggypeggy

Curitiba—a city ahead of its time

Tanguá Park

Tanguá Park—one of Curitiba’s showpieces

Poor John and I have just had an amazing few days in Curitiba, the capital and largest city of the Brazilian state of Paraná. We had a couple of reasons for making this side trip before we started our next overland adventure.

Top of the list was to visit Eduardo who’d been an exchange student in Australia in 2004. Eduardo spent a lot of time at our house and we’d heard great tales of his beloved Curitiba.

So when we had a spare week before our main trip started, we decided we had to check out Curitiba—one of seven places on the list of Cities for people—towards the sustainable city.

Bus Rapid Transit Curitiba

Part of Curitiba’s rapid transit bus system. Although you can’t see it, there is a lift for wheelchairs

Decades ago, Curitiba had a forward-thinking mayor, Jaime Lerner, who really was ahead of his time and took his city on a life-changing journey. For starters, Lerner, who is also an architect and urban planner, recognised the problems created by cars, poverty and environmental waste.

So while other cities built roads for cars and sold parkland for housing, Lerner went about building a city for people, bicycles and buses. He even invented a rapid transit bus system that we’ve seen copied (and ridden) in other large cities in South America and Indonesia. The bus system is so good that while the population has tripled in the last 20 years, car traffic has decreased by 30 per cent.

Lerner also was increased the amount of parkland. While this provides beautiful green settings, it serves the greater role of helping to control floodwaters—much classier than the concrete canals so common in other cities.

Tingui Park Curitiba

A capybara (capivara in Portuguese) admires the view at a swollen lagoon in Tingui Park

Recycling was another big push. Lerner had the wisdom to shape a massive recycling program that had children highly involved. He also gave citizens bus tokens in exchange for waste. Today Curitiba has the highest recycling rate in the world.

And one last statistic especially tickled me—99 per cent of the city’s inhabitants want to live in Curitiba. So do 70 per cent of the people who live in São Paulo.

If you have time, check out Lerner’s Ted Talk about Curitiba. Even better—if you ever find yourself in the neighbourhood, make time to visit Curitiba.


Leave a Comment
  1. Asami / Jun 24 2013 9:10 pm

    Wow did you get to see Eduardo? Brazil is the one of many places where I will definitely visit in the future.


    • leggypeggy / Jun 24 2013 9:26 pm

      Yes Asami, we got to stay with Eduardo and his family. I’ll post more about it soon. You will have to come someday. It’s wonderful.


  2. Anne Brown / Jun 25 2013 4:31 am

    It looks really nice hope you enjoy your trip


    • leggypeggy / Jun 25 2013 6:37 am

      Thanks Anne. I’m sure we’ll have a great time. We look forward to meeting Derrick.


  3. Louie / Jun 25 2013 12:18 pm

    This is why I love you and your blog. As well as being entertained by your tales of adventure, I learn lots of useful, interesting and meaningful things about this big blue planet – and it’s inhabitants –
    with every post, and is why I hang out for the next updates.



    • leggypeggy / Jun 25 2013 7:41 pm

      Thanks Louie. It’s a chain reaction. If I learn something, I feel it’s only right if I share it. Viewer warning—there’s lots more to tell about Curitiba. Stay tuned.


  4. lmo58 / Jun 25 2013 6:29 pm

    Hi Peggy,
    Curitiba looks to be a really interesting, clean, green place to live. It’s not often that you hear that 99 per cent of a city’s inhabitants actually want to live there. I’m glad you caught up with Eduardo and look forward to hearing more about your adventures.


    • leggypeggy / Jun 25 2013 7:43 pm

      It’s easy to see why Curitibans (if that’s what they’re called) love their city. Wait until you see the art museum!


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