Selling the Importance of Street Vending

In the latest entry in a series on informal urban livelihoods, Sally Roever of WIEGO provides insight into how planners can better understand, acknowledge and manage street vending through the development of appropriate policies and best practices.

November 20, 2012, 12:00 PM PST

By Erica Gutiérrez


"Street vending has persisted for centuries all over the world, despite a multitude of efforts to curtail it," writes Roever. As the barriers of entry are virtually non-existent, and since it provides easy access to curbside consumers, street vending appeals not only to individuals seeking basic survival, but also to more seasoned entrepreneurs looking to make an extra dollar. Much to the chagrin of big business and other elites, however, street vendors compete for prime city space.

"Street vendors strategically locate their workplaces in urban areas with steady pedestrian flows, often in central business districts or near crowded transport junctions." Aside from economic competition, unregulated street vending can lead to overcrowding, aggravating "traffic congestion, solid waste management, and public health" matters, adds Roever. Referring to two case studies, she attempts to demonstrate how planners can balance competing demands by city stakeholders, including traders, with innovative and participatory approaches.

The first example explores interventions at the national level, namely the formulation of an unprecedented type of bill of rights for street vendors in India. The passage of this bill was made possible by earlier policy efforts at the ground level spear-headed by groups such as National Association of Street Vendors of India (NASVI) and the Self Employed Women's Asssociation (SEWA). And the second example looks at a local project in Durban, South Africa's busy Warwick Junction, aimed at ameliorating congestion and design matters. According to Roever, "[t]he National Policy in India, and the Warwick project in Durban, have had a considerable impact on urban livelihoods."

She concludes, "[the] key innovation in both Durban and Bhubaneswar was to recognize that it makes sense to keep street vending in natural market areas of the city."

Tuesday, November 13, 2012 in The Global Urbanist

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