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Metro works in Estrela force pedestrians to take a long walk for a few meters

The works for the construction of the Lisbon Metro Circular Line are affecting pedestrian mobility in Praça da Estrela, where the future Estrela station will be. Now those who want to leave Jardim da Estrela and head towards Calçada da Estrela will have to make a big detour and walk along a...

Photo by Mário Rui André/Lisbon for People

The works for the construction of the Lisbon Metro Circular Line are affecting pedestrian mobility in Praça da Estrela, where the future Estrela station will be. Now those who want to leave Jardim da Estrela and head towards Calçada da Estrela will have to make a big detour and travel a distance that will be three times as far as before.

According to the Highway Code, "works on public roads (...) that may (...) restrict pedestrian traffic on sidewalks are only permitted if authorized by the competent authorities, and with the corresponding temporary signage and identification of obstacles". Adds Traffic Signs Regulations that all works lasting more than 30 days must have a temporary signage project or manual "with a view to warning users of special traffic conditions"transmitting "the special obligations, restrictions or prohibitions temporarily imposed on them". The Highway Code also states that "in the case of works that place restrictions on traffic on sidewalks, it is mandatory to ensure communication between the places served by the sidewalk, in order to guarantee safety and circulation".

Excavation works for the future Estrela Metro station started last April in the former Military Hospital. For the time being, the work, which has been entrusted to the construction company Zagope, is complying with the Code and Regulations but is nonetheless causing a great deal of inconvenience for pedestrians, with the temporary signs forcing pedestrians to make a long turn since around 70 meters of the sidewalk between the Garden exit and Calçada da Estrela are blocked.

If they want to do everything according to the rules of the Highway Code, pedestrians will now have to cross three contiguous crosswalks (not lowered) to the front of the Basilica da Estrela, go around the Basilica a little, cross another crosswalk, go around a kiosk and then a parking lot in a circular path, pass another crosswalk, go around another small building, wait at a traffic light for the green light and cross another crosswalk, finally arrive at Calçada da Estrela and, finally, make one last traffic light crossing to go to the side of Calçada where you were.

In yellow the alternative route following all the rules of the Highway Code; in blue the existing route before the works (image via Google Earth, modified by Lisboa Para Pessoas)

All this effort represents around 210 meters, which is three times the distance the pedestrian would need to cover in a normal situation. At the site, several people risk crossing the long tarmac space in front of Jardim da Estrela in a straight line, despite the speed of some cars - Lisboa Para Pessoas saw one lady doing so even with a baby on her lap. Other people decide to walk the 70 meters on the road, despite clearly visible signs forbidding them to do so. Lisboa Para Pessoas also saw several pedestrians confused by the prohibition and unsure of where to go, but also observed those who respected the detour and at least followed it at the three crosswalks that allow crossing to the side of the Basilica, improvising a crossing in the middle of the parking lot.

Two residents of the area, heard by Lisboa Para Pessoas, say that in the early days a PSP officer who was monitoring the works instructed pedestrians not to cross on the path that would be most direct for them, forcing them to make the complete detour. The same residents regret the inconvenience caused to pedestrian mobility, saying that if there were any impediment to car traffic, a convenient and more direct detour would have been created. They call the temporary signs imposed on pedestrians abject.

Admittedly, it wouldn't be easy to find another solution, since cutting through or diverting traffic next to the forbidden sidewalk would inconvenience the streetcar that runs on the tracks there. However, temporary crossings could be put in place to reduce the disruption caused to pedestrian mobility, reducing, for example, the seven crossings that a person has to make today (to comply with the Highway Code to the letter) to three or four. The work on Praça da Estrela is not expected to be completed until the beginning of 2023, and it is not yet known what other constraints it will have on pedestrian and road traffic.

Example of a temporary crosswalk in the Saldanha area (photo by Mário Rui André/Lisboa Para Pessoas)
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