Urban Planning of Valladolid
I’d like to give you a more intimate taste of Valladolid and describe to you some of the efficient urban planning features I’ve noticed over the past months. Much of the architecture, street layout, and city flow is different from what we see in the U.S., all to accompany the unique customs and history of Spain.
Like I discussed in a past post, walking is both mandatory and leisurely for the citizens of Spain. The layout of the city is one example of how vital it is to the life of a Spaniard. Walking the city is incredibly easy. The design of the city ensures that every street has adequate walking space (even if it’s a little skinny); there are also streets entirely dedicated for walkers. On more popular walking routes, say to the university along the river, there are three ‘lanes’ you can choose from. The laid brick paths are usually for passive walkers, slow perusers getting from point A -> B or simply out for their daily stroll. The green runway is for cyclists, runners, or people in a hurry to pass the slowpokes on the right. I appreciate this lane when I’m late or on a run, because I don’t have to fight through walkers and start and stop all the time, which is customary on the main sidewalks. The green path is also home to the cyclists, making it very easy to navigate the city via bicycle (they even have bike rental stations throughout the city). The third train seen is a simple gravel path. I haven’t quite figured out it’s real purpose, but I’ve seen runners, walkers, and bikers all utilize this third option, it seems more adventurous than simply walking on the pavement.
Drivers are quick and at times frightening, but they always stop at crosswalks for pedestrians. This was a refreshing reassurance since in Stevens Point people don’t always stop as we cross that dreaded Fourth Street. Driving seems complicated to me, but with the friends I’ve ridden with, they’re very knowledgeable of their surroundings and love to drive their cars, which are usually small and compact. They do drive fast though, the first time we couldn’t stop giggling and gripping our seats half-amused, half-frightened.
Since people walk rain or shine, there are also features on buildings that aid walkers during harsher weather. Many sidewalks have small awnings outstretched over the sidewalk to protect someone who got caught in the weather without their umbrella. Many plazas and small tiendas (stores) have awnings or permanent coverings to protect people as well. No one ceases to exit their homes just because of rain.
Plazas are sprinkled throughout the city and serve as excellent places to meet up with people. At night, the youth of Spain tend to take them over with soccer balls, bikes, or other games as they debrief from their day and hang out with friends. For the city, they serve as main areas for transportation pick ups, sites for markets, or simply meeting grounds. The main plaza, as I mentioned before, is Plaza Mayor. Here is where the nightlife is at fruition, the main activities occur, and the life of the city flourishes.
Apartments are the main type of housing in Valladolid and are much smaller and condensed than what we live in in Stevens Point. Rooms are smaller and compact; there’s no need for much extra space since Spaniards do not spend much time meandering in their houses. Elevators are smaller as well, and only hold about four people maximum–and very tightly packed into the elevator. We noticed this right away as it can get quite awkward to ride with strangers in such a small space. Parking for those who do have cars (usually one per family) is underneath the plazas or apartment buildings. It took us awhile to figure this out since it’s so discreet. I think it makes the city look cleaner, and opens up more room for walking. Oh, and SUVs and trucks aren’t a thing here, it’s all compact, stick shift cars! I have yet to lay eyes on a pick-up truck so commonly seen in Stevens Point.
Believe it or not, the garbage and recycling receptacles located on the street are pretty awesome. They are metal structures in the ground and you toss your basura in the appropriate section. At night the garbage men come and press a series of buttons that takes the entire metal section and lifts it into the air out of the ground to remove the garbage that was inside. I stopped in my tracks the first time I saw this happening at night! It was cool to see how the system operated so city-friendly keeping garbage and recycling below the earth and out of the streets!
Are you interested in urban planning and design? There are a variety of classes offered by UW-Stevens Point in the Division of Interior Architecture and the Geography Department. My interest was peaked when I saw the film Urbanized. Urban design impacts all cities nationwide and how a society incorporates economics, social norms and environmental aspects into a functioning community for prosperity.
Courtney Cerniglia is a senior at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point majoring in business administration and Spanish.