With Rio de Janeiro, Brazil getting the 2016 Olympic games, it seems appropriate to point out the likely role of the city’s public realm in this selection. Sure, the city’s setting, tucked under towering hills and a winding coast of sandy beaches gives it an advantage — but the city has done much to plan and manage these spaces to make the most they can be.
In particular, the city has encouraged non-motorized transportation along its beaches. A separated cycle track sits next to the roadway along the beach, and the city also allows residents to participate in the “Samba” bike sharing program. And on every Sunday of the year one side of the beachfront road is closed to automobiles and fills with the city’s residents walking, running and pedaling four-person bike-mobiles.
While we’re on the subject of Rio, many may not realize that though it is quite dense and compact where housing is built, it is also one of the most verdant cities around, with nearly 40 percent of its land area in green space. Part of this is because of the National park — the Tijuca Forest — within its borders, covering around 3,200 hectares (7,900 acres) and featuring flora and fauna typical of the Brazilian coast. The park is only a short distance from the city center, and according to the Rio 2016 website, this large green area was reforested in the nineteenth century, after years of deforestation and crop-growing (mainly coffee).