Linear Parks: Meeting People’s Everyday Needs for Secure Recreation, Commuting, and Access to Nature

Ana Faggi, Buenos Aires.  Claudia Zuleyka Vidal, Cali. 
14 April 2016

Many voices. Greener cities. Better cities.

In previous contributions to The Nature of Cities (for example, Das (2015); Tsur (2014)), some authors have reported successful experiences or projects of linear open spaces providing green access to more people across neighborhoods or adapting old infrastructure to modern needs.

Linear parks should balance environment, mobility, recreation, and security in order to produce more livable open spaces.

Linear parks are longitudinal areas, both green and grey, including greenways/corridors and urban edges; blue ways/waterfronts and transportation infrastructure frequently in re-used sites. Normally they have a minimum width of 25 meters, are of priority use for pedestrians and cyclists, with a spatial distribution marked by vegetation. They have an adequate infrastructure, both associated with recreation and resting areas. Although the idea of a “linear park” became popular in England from 1960, the design of this type of park is possibly older (Olmsted 1880, Emerald Necklace of Boston). Supported by the Beautiful City Movement (1890-1900), parkways and pedestrian walks were used in many cities to create relaxing, restful, and pleasant access points to recreation areas from the local street network. In Latin America, the Colombian Bogotá Park Way is a good example of a linear park that dates back to 1944.

Since the 1960s, linear parks have increased in popularity due to their multifunctionality and the decline of industrial-era infrastructure, which posed new design opportunities for linear parks (Kullmann 2011). In the last decade, they received a great deal of attention among city planners due to the scarcity of available space for the creation of larger parks in densely populated areas. They arose as an opportunity to revitalize interstitial edge-spaces in the post-industrial era as a recreational asset that takes advantage of remnant areas along waterways, coastal edges, riparian zones, abandoned railroads, etc. (HerránCuartas 2013, Sinha 2014). Many cities, such as Barcelona, Bogotá, Boston, Buenos Aires, Jerusalem, Medellín, New York, Palmira, Paris, Rosenheim, Stockholm, Toronto, and Uppsala included a number of green corridors in their strategic master plans as rapid and inexpensive ways to create green areas.

These parks became fashionable alongside higher concerns for space to do outdoor linear activities: walking, running, jogging, cycling, roller skating, etc. These daily, short- term recreation activities are performed in close proximity to people’s homes and are frequently motivated by health concerns, such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.

Another reason for the growing popularity of linear parks is their ecological significance. From an environmental perspective, linear parks are seen as biological corridors with potential to harbor urban biodiversity, increasing connectivity among big parks or natural reserves.

Are linear parks such a panacea? A comparison of two Argentine and Colombian linear parks in Buenos Aires and in Palmira, which are very similar in their structural characteristics, shows strengths and threats. In our comparison, we relate performed uses to the facilities supplied and to the users’ requirements of the multiple services provided.

In Buenos Aires, the linear park that we analyzed is 3.5 km long and connects two green urban parks of 70 ha and 5.9 ha. In Palmira, the park extends for 2.7 km starting at the Municipal Forest Park (16.5 ha) to the east. In both cities, the parks run through neighborhoods that are mostly quiet, leafy residential areas, while some parts contain commercial hubs. Both parks are crossed by a railway. We observed that the principle use in both parks was walking through them (30 percent of use in Buenos Aires and 37 percent in Palmira), followed by social interaction (23 percent) and physical activities (17 percent) in Buenos Aires. In Palmira, the next most common activities were sitting (20 percent) and selling products and services (13.5 percent).

As natural settings with good access to other locations, the parks invite people to walk; they are mainly used as routes to reach other destinations, such as shops, services, and bus stops. As they are well equipped with sport facilities, they are ideal places for recreation.

In both cases, users recognized that the parks gave a special identity to their neighborhoods through nature, the selling of traditional food and beverages in the city of Palmira, and through historical features in Buenos Aires.

In Palmira, points along the park where typical foods are sold, like this offer of “Cholados” (a typical drink with ice and fruit), shows that green areas can help to strengthen the local economy and sense of place. Photo Claudia Vidal


Buenos Aires
Palmira (top) and Buenos Aires (bottom), linear parks provide multiple ecological, recreational, economic, and cultural / historic values. Photos: Claudia Vidal and Ana Faggi

Image 2. Palmira (top) and Buenos Aires (bottom), linear parks provide multiple ecological, recreational, economic, and cultural / historic values. Photos by Claudia Vidal and Ana Faggi

In Palmira, the park is preferred for commuting as a cool and quiet space; in Buenos Aires, however, little environmental value was recognized. Environmental value scored last of all mentioned services and far from the value nature was given in Palmira. A greater sensitivity to nature in Palmira could be explained by its smaller stature as a city and by its agricultural tradition, through which people have more contact with rural environments. A previous study on environmental perception carried out in natural reserves in the Buenos Aires Metropolis showed that visitors linked their motivations of nature consumption more with well-being than with nature enjoyment.

Users mentioned insecurity as a threat in both linear parks, predominantly as a consequence of social changes and coinciding with an increase in fear among citizens as a result of robberies, drug consumption, and alcohol abuse. A similar result is noted by Herrán Cuartas (2013) and Ortiz Agudelo (2014) in linear parks in the city of Medellín, where the linear parks conceived by the city council as a method of environmental rehabilitation conveyed neighbors’ feelings of fear and distrust driven by the solitude of the parks, the improvements they brought, or by new inhabitants who appeared in these new types of green spaces.

The perception of insecurity has escalated in Latin America in recent years, becoming the number one public concern in many countries. Crime and insecurity are greater than before, and higher than for other regions, as reported by the United Nations Development Programme (2014), 23.6 percent of Argentine and 25.8 percent of Colombian respondents have limited their visits to recreational areas for fear of becoming a crime victim. In this respect, linearity, which is recognized in literature as the strongest structural feature of linear parks, and which increases accessibility and commuting, may be a disadvantage rather than a benefit: it spreads the user’s vulnerability as thieves can attack victims more easily and escape quickly afterwards.

In the face of such demands for security, the redirection towards preventive strategies—improving street lighting and infrastructure, as well as the presence of guards or police patrols—could have substantial effects on encouraging pedestrian circulation. Design, planning, and management of linear parks should therefore focus on finding a balance between the environment, mobility, recreation, and security in order to produce more livable open spaces.

Ana Faggi and Claudia Zuleyka Vidal
Buenos Aires and Cali

On The Nature of Cities

Das PK (2015). Let Streams of Linear Open Spaces Flow Across Urban Landscapes . The Nature of Cities (August 12.2015).

Herrán Cuartas C (2013). Los parques lineales como nuevas oportunidades de espacio público en Medellín. Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana, Medellín, CO.

Kullmann K (2011). Thin parks/thick edges: towards a linear park typology for (post)infrastructural sites. Journal of Landscape Architecture 6, 70–81.

Ortiz Agudelo PA (2014). Los parques lineales como estrategia de recuperación ambiental y mejoramiento urbanístico de las quebradas en la ciudad de Medellín: estudio de caso parque lineal La Presidenta y parque lineal La Ana Día. Universidad Nacional de Colombia Sede Medellín. See (accessed 04.11 14).

Sinha A (2014). Slow landscapes of elevated linear parks: Bloomingdale Trail in Chicago. Studies in the History of Gardens and Designed Landscape 34:113–122.

Tsur N. (2014).The Story of Jerusalem’s Railway Park: Getting the City Back on Track, Economically, Environmentally and Socially .The Nature of Cities (August 18.2014

UNDP (2014).Citizen Security with Human Face.Evidence and Proposals for Latin America. Regional Human Development Report 2013, Panamá. (accessed 13.04 16).

Claudia Zuleyka Vidal

About the Writer:
Claudia Zuleyka Vidal

Claudia Zuleyka Vidal is an architect with many years’ experience in a wide range of urban renewal design projects. At present, she is working on a variety of architecture projects in the city of Cali.

Ana Faggi

About the Writer:
Ana Faggi

Ana Faggi graduated in agricultural engineering, and has a Ph.D. in Forest Science, she is currently Dean of the Engineer Faculty (Flores University, Argentina). Her main research interests are in Urban Ecology and Ecological Restoration.

Ana Faggi

Ana Faggi

Ana Faggi is also dean in the School of Ecological Engineering at the Flores University, Buenos Aires, Argentina. Her research and teaching have been focused on regional ecology particularly on restoration and the conservation of biodiversity.

14 thoughts on “Linear Parks: Meeting People’s Everyday Needs for Secure Recreation, Commuting, and Access to Nature

  1. Gracias por tu comentario Welner, las areas verdes que podamos incluir como espacios verdes publicos efectivos dentro de nuestras ciudades seran ganancia. Debemos tener en cuenta que la importancia de estos parques radica en su “linealidad” presentandose como una herramienta fundamental de cohesión social, de inclusión, atravesando diferentes sectores (o barrios) de la ciudad, permitien la expresión de diversos grupos culturales y sociales.

  2. Florencia, mil gracias por tu comentario. En el ejemplo de Palmira-Colombia, pasa igual, por un lado esta la falta de voluntad politica y por el otro, la falta de sentido de pertenencia o de lugar de los habitantes. Por lo cual se deben iniciar acciones de informacion, capacitacion y organizacion con los vecinos del mismo parque para generar en ellos ese sentido de pertencia y de lugar que se necesita para que estos espacios lleguen a ser exitosos a la hora de una mayor intervencion o un proyecto urbano concertado entre municipalidad, comunidad, instittuciones y actores del conocimiento.

  3. Gracias Welner por tu comentario. Nuestras ciudades con sus pocas àreas verdes por habitante tienen en los parques lineales una oportunidad de llevar màs verde a la gente.

  4. Me parece muy interesante el tema, y me gusta mucho el aporte de recuperar, lo que nos queda de zonas verdes paisaje y confort de ciudad, atraves de un parque lineal.

  5. el articulo da a conocer muchos de los beneficios que este tipo de parque representa, los cuales resultan muy útiles a la hora enfocarse en las necesidades de las personas que los utilizan, soy de la provincia de Formosa, la cual presenta un parque de iguales similitudes pero lo que se puede percibir tanto en Buenos Aires como en Colombia pero sobre todo en mi provincia, es la falta de iniciativas por parte de los gobiernos o municipios para explotar a fondo estos beneficios, sobre todo las actividades recreativas que son el fuerte de los mismos. Y sin dejar de lado la toma de conciencia, enseñando a los vecinos o personas que los usen, todo el provecho que se puede recibir de ellos.

  6. Claro que si Romina, es importante pensar en campañas educativas y en cultura ciudadana, asi como en capacitacion ambiental, sobre todo a los vecinos frentistas del parque para que ellos mismos valoren el sitio. Estos parques pueden ser aprovechados tambien como arboretos donde los niños y jovenes tenga la posiblidad de conocer las especies nativas, al ser exclusivos o prioritarios de transito peatonal y en bicicleta pueden ofrecerse como rutas seguras al colegio para los niños. El caso de Palmira por ejemplo, alberga un museo peatonal de 20 vallas de 4mx2m que desafortunadamente una gran cantidad de habitantes no valoran. Por ello se requiere la accion conjunta de la comunidad civil, la administracion, las organizaciones no lucrativas y los actores del conocimiento en la conformacion de grupos o comites ambietales encargados del manejo y gestion de estos espacios.

  7. El concepto de Parque Lineal se aplica para amplitudes minimas de 25m, segun Falcón (2007), pero seria magnifico que lograramos incluir vegetacion en todas las calles de nuestra ciudad, pues el arbolado viario aporta no solo en la reducción del calor y proporcionando sombra, sino que su continuidad permite el transito de la avifauna por nuestras ciudades, asi como de insectos como mariposas y abejas. La peatonalizacion de las zonas comerciales centricas en las ciudades, las denominan “Centros Comerciales a Cielo Abierto” y en casi todos los casos incluyen vegetacion, en casos de poca amplitud se pueden incluir muros o cubiertas verdes.

  8. Me gusto mucho el artículo. Para mi lo mas importante es concientizar a las personas, ya sea en los colegios, en los mismos parques, en propagandas, etc porque la mayoría de las personas no saben que son ni los beneficios que tienen. Se necesita responsabilidad y una buena predisposición tanto del Estado como de los ciudadanos.

  9. Gracias Laura por tu comentario. La idea que propones me parece muy interesante. Habría que proponerlo a las autoridades. Se podría trabajar en un diseño acorde!

  10. El articulo me resulto muy interesante. Los parques lineales podrian ser una alternativa para las calles del microcentro porteño que se han convertido en peatonales. Que piensan al respecto?

  11. Mil gracias por tu comentario. Desde luego, los parques lineales son espacios potenciales para cualquier ciudad que los posea por los múltiples beneficios que estos pueden aportar al mejoramiento de la calidad de vida de los habitantes. Pero convertirlos en espacios de éxito no depende exclusivamente del diseño urbano o de la voluntad política, se requiere de la cooperación conjunta entre la municipalidad, la comunidad, las entidades, las organizaciones civiles, los empresarios y los profesionales, para que esto se realice. Ademas, cada uno de nosotros puede realizar su aporte con el buen uso y la ocupación que le demos al espacio e invitando a otros a que lo hagan con nosotros.

  12. Gracias por tu comentario. Esperemos que este día esté tan cerca que podamos ser nosotros mismos los que lo disfrutemos. Es sólo lograr una sinergia entre comunidad y gobierno. Finalmente sería llevar a la acción algo para beneficio de todos.

  13. Muy buen apunte. Refleja las grandes ventajas de esta clase de parques para el disfrute y beneficio de la comunidad. Ojala que algun dia se realice el sueño de los Palmiranos: que el parque lineal de Palmira- sea reestructurado, acorde con las necesidades fisicas y mentales de todos los ciudadanos y se pueda decir: ” ambiente sano ha generado cuerpo sano y mente sana”
    Gracias por compartir:
    Floresmira Zapata-

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