Mikami Environmental Blog

Study shows that, in São Paulo, 97.8% of the elderly can not cross the street at the time of traffic lights

Publicado em 04 maio 2017

Por Maria Fernanda Ziegler, da Agência FAPESP

A few yards separate one sidewalk from the other. But when the green light allows pedestrians to cross, crossing the street can become a feat, especially for people over 60: the light with the little red toy begins to flash before they arrive safely on the other side of the road. sidewalk.

A study done at the University of São Paulo's School of Public Health (USP) found that 97.8% of the elderly in the city of São Paulo can not walk at 4.3 km / h, speed required by the standard presented by the Engineering Company of São Paulo. Traffic (CET-SP) to the traffic lights of the city. On average, the speed of the volunteers over 60 who participated in the study was much lower than that required: only 2.7 km / h.

To measure the speed of the march of the 1,191 elderly people who participated in the study, the infrastructure of the SABE - Health, Welfare and Aging Study, longitudinal research of multiple cohorts on the living and health conditions of the elderly in the city of São Paulo was necessary.

This multicenter study began in 2000, when, at the initiative of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), researchers from 60 years or more of seven major cities in Latin America and the Caribbean were surveyed, including São Paulo. With support from FAPESP, the study was reissued in São Paulo in 2006 and 2010 and in 2016 had its fourth edition.

"The speed required to cross the streets of the city does not match the elderly population and we can not ignore the increase of the elderly population in the city of São Paulo and in the whole of Brazil," said Etienne Duim, author of an article with published study results In the Journal of Transport & Health - the other authors are José Leopoldo Ferreira Antunes and Maria Lucia Lebrão (deceased in July 2016).

According to data from the State System for Data Analysis (Seade), in 2016, the percentage of elderly people in the city of São Paulo was 12.74%.

"What we found with the study is that the city is not regulated for the elderly, but for an adult individual who, in most cases, walks between 4 and 6 km / h without major problems. This has the effect of making the elderly more and more confined at home, "said Antunes, a professor at the FSP and study leader.

The survey was based on data from CET-SP (from August 2016) that regulates the traffic lights time from a calculation that considers the average pedestrian speed as 4.3 km / h. The calculation is made for crossing while the pedestrian signal is green. The study did not consider the flashing red signal time. According to the CET, there was no change in the traffic lights' time after the research period. The bibliographical analysis on the subject, made by the researchers, pointed out that cities have reduced the average pedestrian travel speed, such as Valencia and Barcelona, ​​in Spain, with its current 3.2 km / h.

According to Duim, a study carried out in England had results very similar to those of São Paulo. "The English study even had weight in the regulation of the country, which increased the time of traffic lights," he said.

The two studies conclude that for the elderly population, walking has an important relation to health and social interaction, and that factors that hinder the movement of this public - such as the difficulty of crossing streets - may indicate loss of autonomy and even Quality of life of the elderly.


Duim suggests to the capital of São Paulo similar changes to those adopted in England and Spain. This would guarantee the autonomy and mobility of the elderly population and, mainly, the reduction of risks of run over.

"Increasing 5 seconds the time for each traffic light can have an impact on traffic? You can. But, from what we have seen in studies conducted in other countries, this change is also diluted with the adoption of other measures, such as changing the speed of traffic and encouraging the use of public transport, for example, "he said.

Duim points out as an interesting alternative to Sao Paulo the proposal adopted in Curitiba, where some smart traffic lights were implanted: the elderly inserted a card into an electronic device to determine that they needed more time to cross the street.

"The same goes for other people with mobility problems, such as wheelchairs, pregnant women and people with small children, for example. It is a solution that does not impact traffic so much and creates an interesting process of social inclusion, "he said.

The article Walking speed of older people and pedestrian crossing time (doi:, by Etienne Duim, Maria Lucia Lebrão and José Leopoldo Ferreira Antunes, is published

Learn more about the SABE Study:

Age compromises immune system and reduces vaccine efficacy

Aging of the population needs to be prioritized in public policies

Increasingly fragile

Published by EcoDebate on April 4, 2017