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Understanding the value and vulnerability of informal infrastructures: Footpaths in Quito

Ignacio Loor and James Evans

Journal of Transport Geography, 2021, vol. 94, issue C

Abstract: Walking remains the primary means of travel in informal settlements of the Global South because of the limited ability of municipal governments to provide formal transport infrastructure. To cope, residents create footpaths through a bottom-up approach. Using a case study of informal settlements in Quito, this paper offers the first study of the process through which people settled in these spaces shape footpaths as informal walking infrastructures to enable everyday mobility. The paper draws on data collected over an eighteen-month period from archives, field notes from participatory observations, records of in-depth interviews, and interviews “on the go” with pedestrians to show how this infrastructure enables informal settlements' residents to access everyday destinations in shorter times, less expensively, and (often) more safely than alternatives. We show how these informal infrastructures build on centuries old practices of collective footpath building that form an essential part of local culture, and how urban processes and infrastructural development in the core city shape the production, transformation and disappearance of footpaths in informal settlements. Significantly, these findings contribute to a fuller understanding of the value and vulnerability of informal infrastructures that can inform wider studies of walking and informal infrastructure. The paper concludes by identifying the challenges and opportunities to promote informal infrastructures as a mainstream element of mobility in the city and support a more sustainable path to urban development.

Keywords: Informal settlements; Walking infrastructure; Informal infrastructure; Everyday mobility; Sustainable transport; Urban transformation (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2021
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DOI: 10.1016/j.jtrangeo.2021.103112

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