Promenading and public space activation

Promenading and public space activation

In Europe we’re used to seeing people strolling down the prom (‘promenading’) and likely do so on holiday ourselves.

However, when we are out and about sometimes see public realm schemes that look good but there’s nobody using them so it was great to see a riverfront come alive in Colombia.

Santa Cruz de Lorica is one of Colombia’s 17 heritage towns. It’s located on the River Sinu and not yet on the tourist trail it seems. The riverfront has a wide promenade plus a two way bike lane, trees, benches and lighting with large spaces intermittently acting as viewpoints or larger group space.

It is very hot (35-40c) meaning there’s few people on the streets in the afternoon. Come 5pm that all changes as the heat subsides a little towards sunset. People appear from all directions to rollerblade, walk with family, take part in dance sessions and group exercise (there’s an outdoor gym too), walk dogs, jog and hangout. It was as if a switch was flipped and transformed the feel of the place.

It was a joy to see this town come alive each evening and to see the space so well used. It stayed that way until around 8pm after which it started to quieten down as people headed home.

Noticeably, it was all ages and many children with their friends (rather than parents) indicating it was seen as a safe space. Being linear, it’s also a different space to the plaza that sits in front of the church which, although it is pedestrianised it’s surrounded by traffic on three sides.

There were the usual notices that we are used to seeing the in the UK – no drinking alcohol, drugs etc – as to what you can do there, but the space is not private, it’s publicly managed.

The town has challenges with pollution – both the river and the amount of motorbikes – but maybe change will come looking at how well the promenade is used.