Pedro would like to see a calmer, safer city from his window

She lives on Avenida das Forças Armadas and has presented the Lisbon City Council with solutions to various problems she identifies on her doorstep. However, although his civic initiative has been praised by some councillors, he complains about the apparent inertia of the municipality in resolving the issues raised. He feels frustrated, but hasn't given up...

Pedro Franco calls for a calmer and more humane Avenida das Forças Armadas (LPP photo)

What would you change outside your home? Not all of us will have thought about this. Some won't have time, with the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Others just won't be interested. But there are those who have the availability and the will; there are those who want to get involved in improving their street, their neighborhood, their city, perhaps dreaming of the possibility of them being more pleasant places to walk, to be, to live. There are those who get involved with ideas and proposals, only to run into barriers with the local authorities, be it the town hall or the parish council. "It's frustrating"says Pedro Franco.

From his window, Peter observes the Avenida das Forças Armadas, sees a large asphalt field that serves one of the main roads in and out of the city, where excessive speeds are practiced. And sometimes ambulances stuck in the congestion that happens there almost every day, morning and afternoon. Or pedestrian zones whose measly square meters don't serve the people who travel there. Or pedestrians crossing six lanes of traffic outside the crosswalks because there is a lack of them. "The way this avenue is designed today is not a necessary evil. It's a political choice"points to FFP.

Avenida das Forças Armadas (LPP photo)

Pedro Franco is 28 years old, is doing a PhD and works from home most days of the week. As a result, he is able to establish a closer relationship with his urban surroundings. The windows in his house give him some peace and quiet, drowning out some of the noise. noise and which, it says, is above legal levels, not only because of road traffic but also because of its proximity to the airport - data from the city council confirms this. Also according to official information from the municipality, Avenida das Forças Armadas is among the city's most critical points in terms of AIR QUALITY.

Pedro identified several problems on Avenida das Forças Armadas, which he took to a public meeting of the City Council in December 2022. In addition to his diagnosis, he presented a set of solutions to the councillors, focusing above all on the issue of the axis' insecurity. "Proximity to highways cannot justify the dangers created for so many citizens. Urgent action is called for"said the young man at the time. The Councillor in charge of Mobility at the time, Ângelo Pereira, agreed with the issues raised and promised Pedro a meeting with the appropriate council services, so that he could be shown projects that had already been thought of and new solutions could be discussed. Pedro says that there was such a meeting, but that had no practical consequences. Avenida das Forças Armadas remained the same: no speed bumps, no radar, no increase in walking areas, no creation of more pedestrian crossings - their main demands.

Pedro Franco at the Town Hall meeting in December 2022, on the left; Councillor Ângelo Pereira, on the right (screenshot and LPP montage)

Other points that Pedro would like to see implemented are the reinforcement of afforestation and permeable areas, to strengthen drainage in an area that has potential for flooding; and also the creation of continuous sidewalks, the improvement of traffic lights in favor of pedestrians, or the resolution of terraces that shorten the circulation space to the sidewalks. "The intervention I made at City Hall was praised, but to date nothing has been done - in fact, the little that has been done has worsened safe traffic in this area." Pedro is referring to the construction work that has begun on the former popular fair grounds and which has shortened the sidewalk, sometimes pushing pedestrians into the road channel.

The 28-year-old did not give up, gathered some support from neighbors and wanted to collect some data himself. He got himself a sensor (Telraam) which, from the window of the building and an artificial intelligence model, allows you to measure how many vehicles and people pass through the public space, also recording their speeds. And discovered in 13 and a half days of countingAccording to the report, more than 200,000 cars passed through Avenida das Forças Armadas and, of these, 40% drove above the 50 km/h speed limit. What's more, around 6.5% even drove above 70 km/h - that's 13,700 vehicles, or more than 1,000 cars a day speeding. Looking at just one day of counting (October 8th), Pedro's sensor detected 59% cars over 50 km/h and 13% over 70 km/h.

Speeds measured by Pedro outside his house (data available here)

For Pedro, these figures are worrying, not least because, as the National Road Safety Authority (ANSR) and other reputable bodies point out, being hit by a car at 70km/h is unquestionably lethal. According to the Portuguese Road Prevention (PRP), four people died on Avenida das Forças Armadas, victims of being hit by a car, between 2010 and 2016; in that period, there were 34 hit-and-runs and 111 accidents. It is one of the 20 streets in Lisbon with the highest accident rates. "This avenue is an incentive to accelerate."

Counts made by the sensor over 13 days (data available here)

The young citizen would like to see Lisbon City Council pay attention to Avenida das Forças Armadas, which has been gaining importance in the city in recent years. In the immediate vicinity, new municipal affordable housing has been built; we are close to the entire Cidade Universitária campus and very close to ISTCE, which has just opened a research and development center; there is a university residence, the Colégio Universitário Pio XII; "and we also have the Gregorian Institute of Lisbon". "Every day we see people crossing the six lanes of this avenue because there are no crosswalks"He explains that good practice recommends a crossing every 80-100 meters, but on Avenida das Forças Armadas these pedestrian crossings are 160 meters apart. "A lot of students, a lot of young people, walk along this avenue." Also very close to this avenue is one of the main buildings of Lisbon City Hall.

Pedro Franco (LPP photo)

Pedro has identified several problems and many ideas for improving that road. The "minimum" he asks for are speed bumps and a speed camera. "We've seen several radars being installed in the city but in areas without pedestrian access, while here this area remains unprotected." As for speed bumps, he was told that they couldn't be placed there due to the slope of the avenue - an explanation that didn't convince Pedro, who sees speed bumps placed on other equally sloping arteries in the city. On a more ambitious level, Pedro has a proposal to give Avenida das Forças Armadas a similar look to Avenida 24 de Julho, on the riverfront: to turn one direction of the avenue into a two-way BUS corridor, surrounded by a protected cycle path; and the other direction to be dedicated to two-way general traffic. "Today we have a bus lane here that doesn't do much good, because we see buses and ambulances stuck in car traffic"he says, pointing out that Santa Maria Hospital is at the top of this avenue.

Due to the apparent inertia of the Lisbon City Council, Pedro decided to sign up for a new council meeting to give an update, but was not selected to speak. "It seems that the issues that go to these meetings are those that are easy to answer. The difficult ones aren't selected. It's easy to do public participation this way"he asks LPP. "The people responsible for lining up this public meeting refused to explain the criteria for selecting the speeches. Several citizens who spoke at this meeting claimed to have signed up after me and to have already spoken multiple times at other public town hall meetings on the same topics." With no airtime with the councillors, Pedro went to the Municipal Assembly on October 10, where it made a new public presentation and handed over, as it had done in December, a detailed document of its diagnosis to the politicians present. "An advisor to the Vice-President, responsible for Mobility, took note of my proposals. But to this day I haven't been contacted"says.

With no new answers from the municipality, Pedro Franco and some neighbors decided to launch a petition, summarizing the ideas that have been discussed throughout this article. And they are looking for support from civil society, which is why they also contacted LPP.

"This petition aims to safeguard road safety, especially for pedestrians, in the Entrecampos area and more specifically on Av. das Forças Armadas, where more than 1000 cars pass over 70km/h every day. The excessive traffic and uncontrolled speed of cars must stop. The urban plans for Entrecampos, within the scope of the Integrated Operation, must defend the people who live, work, study and travel here without cars. We can't accept any more pedestrian deaths. People's lives must be spared."

- petition launched by Peter and some of his neighbors

Pedro is familiar with the public space project planned for Avenida das Forças Armadas as part of the Entrecampos Integrated OperationThe project is currently underway and includes some improvements to pedestrian accessibility and road traffic, such as:

  • the establishment of three traffic lanes per direction between the Entrecampos traffic circle and Avenida 5 de Outubro, which will allow the central tree-lined corridor to be widened;
  • the left turn from Avenida das Forças Armadas onto Avenida 5 de Outubro, for those coming from the Entrecampos traffic circle, is annulled. And the public space on 5 de Outubro is reorganized with the establishment of two lanes per direction, the creation of an underground parking lot and an increase in pedestrian space;
  • the suppressed left turn will be replaced by the extension of Rua da Cruz Vermelha, which will create a new connection between Avenida 5 de Outubro and Avenida da República, taking pressure off the Armed Forces.

For the young doctoral student, this urban redesign is the minimum ambition required. But more immediate and effective calming measures are urgently needed, he says. Will Lisbon City Council make it happen on Avenida das Forças Armadas?

Cutaway of the Entrecampos Integrated Operation (via CML)