The Widest Avenue on Earth
January 2, 2009 9:25 AM   Subscribe

At 18 lanes and 110 metres wide, Avenida 9 de Julio in Buenos Aires, Argentina, is not only a beautiful example of urban design but is also apparently the widest major road on the planet.

Wikipedia says: "Crossing the avenue at street level often requires a few minutes, as all intersections have traffic lights. Under normal walking speed, it takes pedestrians normally two to three green lights to cross it."

If that were not enough, tomorrow it will be thronged with people because it will host the ceremonial start of this year's Dakar Rally.
posted by Cobalt (60 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
a beautiful example of urban design

Is it really though? It seems like an example of pedestrian un-friendly design. Wouldn't it be better as a park? The picture doesn't show many cars on it, but I don't know what the traffic is like there. It does look pretty from a 1000' scale model perspective.
posted by stbalbach at 9:33 AM on January 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


We have vastly differing ideas of beauty.
posted by The Whelk at 9:36 AM on January 2, 2009 [4 favorites]


We have one image, one wiki page, and one event promotional site. I think there's a really cool post to be made about this, but I think people are going to have a hard time figuring out where the meat is here.

That said, if your ball bounces into Avenida 9 de Julio, forget it man, it's gone.
posted by hermitosis at 9:40 AM on January 2, 2009 [4 favorites]


Oooh, Kunstler is going to have a field day with this.
posted by longdaysjourney at 9:43 AM on January 2, 2009 [4 favorites]


Wikipedia also says the municipality has a population of 3 million, while the metro "megalopolis" has a population of 13 million, so I guess they need an 18 lane avenue to get things moving, although I seem to recall reading on the Internets increasing road volume actually increases traffic congestion.

As well, Au 9 de Julio seems to go nowhere, and I kind of wonder if the avenue's size and scale is not some monumental fascist statement.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:46 AM on January 2, 2009


That road's not all that good; it's got a big stick in the middle of it. Unless there are jump ramps for each lane, in which case it would be the AWESOMEST ROAD EVER.
posted by Spatch at 9:48 AM on January 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


try crossing by foot!
posted by brandz at 9:48 AM on January 2, 2009


This seems strange to me. If there's inadequate traffic to require that many lanes, it's a waste. If there's lots of traffic, then it seems like it would be a nightmare to get into and out of, say, lane 5 of 9.
posted by gurple at 9:49 AM on January 2, 2009


I live in Buenos Aires. Traffic is a nightmare. Forget getting through there quickly, it's always backed up on every street coming into and leaving Avenida 9 de Julio, especially around the Obelisco (in the center of the picture). I have no idea when that picture could have been taken, but it's not representative. Taxis, buses belching fumes, hawkers, suits, tourists...it's a nightmare. Also, in Argentina, road rules are more like "suggestions". It may have lanes painted on the road, but don't expect anyone to pay attention to them.
There are a bunch of very big roads here, Libertador springs to mind as well. They don't seem to do anything to speed up a journey. Half the time, you're better off taking the 2-lane side streets, and they're more interesting anyway.
posted by conifer at 9:50 AM on January 2, 2009 [6 favorites]


Pretty interesting street, just wish there are better pictures, so here you go:

A rare empty section
More photos
An HDR
A high shot
With traffic
A time lapse
The flickr cluster
Google Maps
posted by mrzarquon at 9:56 AM on January 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


That looks like something I used to do in Sim City right before I bankrupted the local government.
posted by fusinski at 9:57 AM on January 2, 2009 [16 favorites]


And all this time, I thought that this http://www.almosttruenews.com/wp-content/uploads/2006/03/frogger.jpg was the widest.
posted by milnak at 10:02 AM on January 2, 2009


Isn't there an ocean between Argentina and Dakar? Or is that the "ceremonial" part?
posted by smackfu at 10:02 AM on January 2, 2009


(OK, so Wikipedia says they moved it since Africa is a hellhole. But still, "Dakar" rally???)
posted by smackfu at 10:03 AM on January 2, 2009


Oh sure, wide roads are tough. But have you ever tried to drive on really narrow roads?
posted by twoleftfeet at 10:10 AM on January 2, 2009


Huh. The way everyone was talking about Argentina around the turn of the century, I figured it had long since collapsed into cannibalistic anarchy. As a result, watching all those cars zoom up and down that hideous monstrosity of a road was sorta comforting.
posted by you just lost the game at 10:16 AM on January 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: some monumental fascist statement
posted by Joe Beese at 10:16 AM on January 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


Dude, that's wide as shit!
posted by The Straightener at 10:20 AM on January 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


The way everyone was talking about Argentina around the turn of the century, I figured it had long since collapsed into cannibalistic anarchy. As a result, watching all those cars zoom up and down that hideous monstrosity of a road was sorta comforting.

Context.
posted by Joe Beese at 10:27 AM on January 2, 2009 [4 favorites]


We have vastly differing ideas of beauty.

Which is fine, right?

Right?
posted by setanor at 10:28 AM on January 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


As well, Au 9 de Julio seems to go nowhere, and I kind of wonder if the avenue's size and scale is not some monumental fascist statement.

I only wish these types of monumental statements could be made without the underlying fascism or violence, but for some more benign reason. The world would be a much more boring place without a few monstrous engineering fallacies.
posted by setanor at 10:31 AM on January 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


> Context.

*sigh* Ah, well.
posted by you just lost the game at 10:35 AM on January 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


I like 9 de julio, but then I have fond memories of it from my years living in B.A.—yeah, it's a bitch to cross, but so what? Why are you in a hurry? Stop and gaze at the Teatro Colón while you wait for the next light! Enjoy life!

I kind of wonder if the avenue's size and scale is not some monumental fascist statement.


For fuck's sake. From Wikipedia:
The avenue was first planned in 1888 with the name of Ayohuma; but, long opposed by affected landlords and residents, work did not start until 1935. The initial phase was inaugurated on July 9, 1937 and the main stretch of the avenue was completed in the 1960s. The southern connections were completed after 1980, when the downtown portion of the tollway system was completed.
Nothing to do with fascism, nothing to do with Peron. The city has always seen itself as a rival to Paris, and the avenue was presumably modeled after the Champs-Élysées, only bigger and better. Not everything is about politics.
posted by languagehat at 10:44 AM on January 2, 2009 [7 favorites]


Not everything is about politics.

It's true: sometimes a swastika is just a mandala.

But I'm sure you'll understand if we're still a little jumpy.
posted by Joe Beese at 10:55 AM on January 2, 2009


But then I do recall reading that the modern layout of Paris was the express result of the Commune and the difficulty of getting the troops in to supress insurgent citizens fighting behind barricades in old windy streets.
posted by Abiezer at 10:56 AM on January 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oops, looks like I got my time-lines all wrong but the criticism was made.
posted by Abiezer at 10:59 AM on January 2, 2009


Not everything is about politics.

Au contraire.

Obelisk of Buenos Aires: "For some time during the 1970s, during the Peronist government of Isabel Martínez de Perón, a ring-shaped sign was hung around the obelisk, with the motto El silencio es salud (Silence is health). Although it was allegedly geared against motorists creating excessive noise, it was widely interpreted as a statement calling Argentines to refrain from expressing their political views."

Given that El Obelisco is smack dab in the fucking middle of Av. 9 de Julio, it is perfectly reasonable for someone else to assume that the Avenue might hold some political significance. Or that city and architectural design (see, for fuck's sake, Albert Fucking Speer) might have some underlying political purpose.
posted by ed at 11:02 AM on January 2, 2009


Not everything is about politics.

Right, sometimes it's about stuff like rivalries between cities and conflicts between governments and citizens.
posted by sloe at 11:05 AM on January 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


Ah, what is urban design? Is it the art of asphalt and trees, or of people and buildings? As an "urban planner," I see mega-roads as something of a failure, but it seems to be a creation of design not function. From wikipedia: "The avenue's unusual width is due to the fact that it spans an entire city block, the distance between two streets in the checkerboard pattern used in Buenos Aires."

Considering the fact this massive design was first planned back in 1888, around the time when Karl Benz first made motorwagens (approximately 25 Benz vehicles were sold between 1888 and 1893), this was a grand design for carriages, or massive movement of people. Or just to be awe-inspiring for the masses, like epic cathedrals and the like.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:07 AM on January 2, 2009


The Widest Main Street in the World.
posted by ND¢ at 11:14 AM on January 2, 2009


Its name actually honors my birthday, contrary to the claim (a common misconception) in the wikipedia article.
posted by Wolfdog at 11:16 AM on January 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


I’m from Buenos Aires, and lived right alongside 9 de Julio for a little while. As a boulevard, it’s actually quite pleasant, with lovely old buildings and trees and statues here and there. You need your wits about you when crossing it, of course.

My problem with it has to do with the area around the Obelisco. Because it’s a sort of “focal point” of the city, all the buildings on both sides of the boulevard are plastered with the enormous brightly lit billboards of whichever multinationals are wanting to “mark their territory” at the moment. Imagine the Washington monument and the whole Washington Mall plastered with billboards for BMWs and Chinese air conditioners. This affects the symbolism, no? Fortunately, the real heart of Buenos Aires is elsewhere, and is beyond amazing. And who knows, maybe one day they will follow Sao Paulo’s lead, banning all outdoor advertising.
posted by dacoit at 11:24 AM on January 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


By the way, when they created this boulevard they did so by blazing a path of demolition a city block wide through the city center. The very substantial debris from the demolition was piled into the harbor creating a new peninsula of reclaimed land, which has become an ecological reserve.
posted by dacoit at 11:34 AM on January 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


9 de Julio has never been the not the top reason I've always wanted to visit Buenos Aires, it is merely #2. Tango is #1, though.
Actually, for a long time, tango was #2, but I've since moved on, now retain a love merely for _things_ Uruguayan and Argentinian, not specific persons. Sigh, good times.
posted by the cydonian at 11:38 AM on January 2, 2009


so what is that excellent music in mrzarquon's link to the time lapse on flickr and where can one find more of it?
posted by dawson at 11:59 AM on January 2, 2009


Can anyone identify the music used in mrzarquon's link to "a time lapse"? (Great find, mrzarquon.)
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 12:06 PM on January 2, 2009


Nice street, but since when did the Parry-Dakar skip both Parry and Dakar? (wiki... ). Oh, man, that sucks. It's not as though they haven't passed through uncertain territory before - that's part of why it's an endurance race!
posted by goo at 12:06 PM on January 2, 2009


Geez, we really missed the boat here in Portland. Instead of a crazy-wide street, we turned a block-wide strip of downtown real estate into a massive park, instead. I guess beauty really is a relative term.
posted by apollo at 12:11 PM on January 2, 2009


If I'm not mistaken, that music in the time-lapse is from Astor Piazzolla's "Las Cuatro Estaciones de Buenos Aires".
posted by dacoit at 12:11 PM on January 2, 2009


I think there's a really cool post to be made about this, but I think people are going to have a hard time figuring out where the meat is here.

you're right, it needs at least three newspaper article linked at the very bottom of the comments.
posted by krautland at 12:12 PM on January 2, 2009


Paradoxically, studies indicate that too many lanes can slow traffic.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:17 PM on January 2, 2009


For fuck's sake.

Oooh, I irritated languagehat by expressing an opinion.

yeah, it's a bitch to cross, but so what? Why are you in a hurry? Stop and gaze at the Teatro Colón while you wait for the next light! Enjoy life!

Why don't you go play in traffic? There's a big, wide street, which you sure seem to like a lot, ready and waiting.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:19 PM on January 2, 2009


What a shitty looking place. Is it so wide because it was designed to be more plaza and park than street? Or did they really think they needed that much street when they built it?
posted by pracowity at 12:20 PM on January 2, 2009


Not everything is about politics.

Au contraire.
... Followed by an attempt to contradict the statement "Nothing is about politics," which I didn't make.

Oooh, I irritated languagehat by expressing an opinion.

No, you irritated languagehat by expressing an opinion that was completely at variance with the facts, which were easily determinable by looking at, say, the Wikipedia article already linked. Plus the automatic equation "Argentina = fascism" is pretty fucking irritating itself.
posted by languagehat at 12:27 PM on January 2, 2009


And apollo, as someone who lives in both Portland and Buenos Aires, and has thought much about the differences in beauty between these two lovely cities, your sarcasm makes me kinda sad. Buenos Aires is filled with beautiful parks, with old men playing chess, kids playing, leafy places to sit under the huge canopy of ombu trees and, in the springtime, the purple blossoms of jacarandás. Yes, it's a big city and there is pollution, but have you seen the Willamette lately? I love Portland, and the Park Blocks are all well and good (if hardly massive), but I would like to respectfully suggest that this doesn't mean that Portlanders love nature while Porteños love concrete.
posted by dacoit at 12:29 PM on January 2, 2009


This is the greatest thread ever. We've got an irritable languagehat starting a little spat, some PNWer making an "is this something you have to have a TV" equivalent, someone calling Africa a "hellhole" without a resultant callout, and some pedant sort of making an oblique (unlinked) reference to an earlier thread.

Hmm. Guess it's not that different than any other thread.
posted by Kwantsar at 12:30 PM on January 2, 2009


Imagine the Washington monument and the whole Washington Mall plastered with billboards for BMWs and Chinese air conditioners.

Rome is also really bad for this. My memory of Piazza Novana is of the massive car company billboards in back of the famous Bernini statue. I think it happense whenever there are private buildings in a famous place... and a lack of proper zoning laws.
posted by smackfu at 12:33 PM on January 2, 2009


I think it's designed to handle these vehicles.
posted by yeti at 12:37 PM on January 2, 2009


Dacoit, I really didn't mean that comment as sarcasm. I am faced with the fact that, when I WANT to be sarcastic, it doesn't come across as such. And when I'm not being sarcastic... well, you see what happens.

My comment was more about the nature of what is perceived as beautiful than about one city vs. another.

Yours in avoiding that Willamette swim,
A.
posted by apollo at 12:41 PM on January 2, 2009


Yeesh, this thread makes me sad. Not as sad as I felt when--after flying 10+ hours to get to Bs.As. for the first time--it took my cab about half an hour just to take a left turn around the Obelisco (while I was desperate to go lie down in my hotel room), but...no, this is sadder. Never mind. I need a nap.
posted by kittyprecious at 12:43 PM on January 2, 2009


Here is a link to a little one-minute camcorder movie I made walking along the Avenida 9 de Julio a couple of years ago. The video is mostly of a mural painted along the side of a building, which is about the street itself, the Avenida 9 de Julio, from an artists' point of view ...
posted by dacoit at 12:50 PM on January 2, 2009


Speaking of obelisks and political statements, here's a condom put on the BA obelisk during world AIDS day. Bet you wouldn't see that on the Washington Monument.
posted by binturong at 12:56 PM on January 2, 2009 [4 favorites]


We've got an irritable languagehat starting a little spat, some PNWer making an "is this something you have to have a TV" equivalent, someone calling Africa a "hellhole" without a resultant callout, and some pedant sort of making an oblique (unlinked) reference to an earlier thread

It would be a little less crowded in here with a few more lanes.

Are we differentiating between roads and freeways? There are many examples of the latter with >20 lanes. For a while a section of the 401 on the western edge of Toronto held the crown at 23.
posted by CynicalKnight at 1:13 PM on January 2, 2009


I seem to recall reading on the Internets increasing road volume actually increases traffic congestion.

The theory is, the more lanes you have, the more lane changes are necessary. This can on very trafficked roads lead to congestion due to cars needing to slow down when someone cuts them of in front and the result is general slowdown.
So you need to minimize the number of lanes, but you still need to have somewhere for the cars to drive. The solution is to have the lanes that you DO have be as fast as safely possible, maximizing the amount of cars that can be driven through per hour per lane. This is done by getting rid of traffic lights (by making multilevel interchanges), getting rid of crossing pedestrians and bikes (with dedicated walkways and bikepaths), and so on.
Normally, city governments skimp on the last points and the result is that cities get fractured and lose walkability due to the expressways. Then you need to bury the road = €€
It is difficult to win in traffic management.
posted by Catfry at 1:45 PM on January 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


At 18 lanes and 110 metres wide...

Pity. I thought this was going to be about a bowling alley.
posted by terranova at 2:08 PM on January 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


That first picture really really really makes me want to attempt a balls-out left-hand turn from the far-right lane just as the light changes to green.
posted by Ron Thanagar at 2:16 PM on January 2, 2009


Beauty or no, at least this lighting example of urban planning serves as a reminder that wide avenues and highways stimulate the flow of traffic and all but eliminate traffic jams.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 4:12 PM on January 2, 2009


BTW, the assertion by kokuryu (based on a satellite image) that this road goes nowhere is not correct. At the North end, it merges into Av. Libertador, which is a wide highway that reaches many of the Northern neighborhoods and suburbs. At the South end, it connects with a freeway that goes out to many suburbs in the South and to the airport. Av. 9 de Julio is basically a way to funnel people from both the North and South regions in and out of the city center. That probably also helps explain why it's so wide.
posted by dacoit at 5:05 PM on January 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Unbelievable isn't it? It really makes me want to see this in action, BA must be beautiful. Here are more pictures of the obelisk in BA, Rome and Paris.
@binturong yeah although it did not go through without protests. But covering monuments with condoms never will though...understandably.
posted by iSimone at 7:29 AM on January 4, 2009


I only count 12 lanes - and Wikipedia believes me.
posted by bkudria at 10:37 PM on January 5, 2009


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