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By Nelson Belen, Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – According to a recent study of traffic accidents throughout Rio de Janeiro, from 2008 to 2015, Rio’s business hub, Centro, has seen the biggest decrease in traffic accidents with a 30.5 percent decline. Government officials attribute the decrease to adjustments in traffic signaling and the creation of new pedestrian crossings as part of the city’s Passos Seguros (Safe Steps) program.

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Government officials attribute Centro’s decrease in traffic accidents to new traffic signals and walkways, photo courtesy of Prefeitura do RJ.

The results were recorded in the city government’s study, Estudo de Segurança de Pedestres e Plano de Ação (Study of Pedestrian Safety and Action Plan), published in partnership with the international consulting group, Bloomberg Associates.

According to the study, Centro recorded the biggest drop in traffic accidents in the seven-year period at 30.5 percent, followed closely by Rio’s Zona Sul (South Zone) with a 28.7 percent decline, and Zona Oeste (West Zone) including the Bangu region with a 26.4 percent drop. Barra da Tijuca saw a 25.1 percent drop in traffic accidents and Rio’s Zona Norte (North Zone) recorded a 24.7 percent decline.

Government officials attributed the decreases throughout the city to the recently installed Passos Seguros program. The pedestrian safety program, started in April 2015, brought together representatives from several city agencies: Transportation (SMTR), Public Order (Seop), Conservation, Operations, and the Municipal Guards, along with civil society organizations and private consultants to create high impact interventions to improve road safety for those most vulnerable, particularly pedestrians, cyclists and public transportation riders.

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Phase Two of Passos Seguros is focusing on Centro due to the many changes in the area, such as the new VLT, photo courtesy of Prefeitura do RJ.

Passos Seguros, as detailed in the study, is a two-phase program. Phase One, started in April 2015 and lasted until December 2015. It included a series of visits by the representatives to the locations with the highest accident rates. Following an analysis of these areas, road safety projects were started to immediately mitigate the situation at these locations.

These included improving road signs and traffic lights, adding electronic monitoring equipment, reducing speed limits, installing speed bumps and pedestrian lanes. In total, over forty new traffic signals, 24 new signs, and 33 new lanes and pedestrian islands were added during Phase One.

Phase Two of Passos Seguros, which is still ongoing, began immediately after the completion of Phase One and included the run up to the Rio 2016 Olympics and Paralympics. It concentrated on six specific areas within the Centro neighborhood.

The group’s focus on Centro was due to the significant changes to the area such as the Rio 450 Tunnel, the revitalized Port Zone, and the new light rail public transportation system, the VLT. The road safety projects implemented in Phase Two have targeted cyclists and pedestrians, and have included new signs, traffic signals, pedestrian walkways, as well as traffic agents to advise drivers, pedestrians and cyclists.

In Centro, the study pointed out there is still a need to strengthen road safety at six major intersections: Rua Comandante Garcia Pires, Praça Marechal Hermes and Rua General Luis Mendes de Morais; Avenida Rio Branco and Rua Visconde de Inhauma; Avenida Presidente Vargas and Avenida Rio Branco; Avenida Rio Branco and Rua da Assembleia; Avenida Rio Branco, Avenida Nilo Peçanha and Rua da Carioca; and Avenida Rio Branco, Avenida Presidente Wilson and Avenida Beira Mar.

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