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Interview with Enrique Peñalosa

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The essence of the conflict today, really is cars and people That is the essence of the whole discussion We can have a city that is very friendly to cars Or a city that is very friendly to people We cannot have both The Open Planning Project presents... a conversation with Enrique Peñalosa I'm here today with Enrique Peñalosa the former Mayor of Bogotá Colombia Who is one of the... ...leading figure in the world in terms of actually accomplishing changes on the ground that have made life better for pedestrians I mean, in many different ways in the city but he... his policies were really... ...revolutionary in terms of rethinking the way you know, transportation works and its relation to the city You gave a talk this morning, and... of the things you said that was interesting was this idea, when you say you talk about transportation the first thing you have to do is... decide what you want - Before we know what the idea of transport is we have to know what kind of a city we want but in order to know what kind of a city we want we have to know how do we want to live, really because a city is really only a means to a way of life The list of the least a democratic society should have is public pedestrian space of great quality sidewalks, pedestrian streets, plazas sports facilities, parks and public transports or public libraries could be considered as public space as well - So, how did you decide for yourself? - We can see what cities have worth, in the world We have had city for five thousand years We have had cars for only about eight years or so, in significant amounts So, for five thousand years all streets were for people Were pedestrians streets A child could walk ten blocks without any fear of being killed We should have cities with very large network of pedestrian only streets Not the quaint, little pedestrian street downtown here and there, but hundreds of kilometers of pedestrians streets where people could go ride bicycles, jog, just sit and read a newspaper in a bench without having cars going in front look at people walking by What we find more and more is that a good city is the one city where you want to be out and a city that is good for the most vulnerable citizens I would say a city where you have many people in the street who are handicapped who are old people who are children, children by themselves - Could you talk a little bit about your experience as a politician in going through the process of implementing some of these changes? - What we try to do is to restrict car use to create public transport to do bicycle ways and to create public space We took the road network and created a bus system that is called bus rapid transit You give exclusive lanes to the buses Our system has a velocity and a capacity, that is very similar to the best subways in the world Clearly this is possible because we give priority to public transport in the use of road space So public good prevails over private transport We created a very large bicycle network A protected bicycle path network A protected bicycle path is a symbol that a citizen on a $30 bicycle is equally important as one on a $30000 car - Your experience in Bogota was that bicycling went from I mean, I think as fringe activity to carrying a real fraction of the transport - When we started bycicle was almost insignificant Zero Or 0.2% of the people in Bogota used to bicycle Now nearly 5% of the people only after 6 years or so We get almost 400000 people bycicle everyday - After you put in these changes and I should state that these are for cities around the world among the most significant changes in terms of moving away from cars and towards focus on pedestrians and bicycles and public transit Practically of any city I can think of In a short period of time Maybe you can talk a little bit about what the public's mind set was beforehand and then afterwards - There is always resistance to change per say and also all of these policies which have social content have conflicts between those who own cars whose use we are going to restrict and those who don't People opposed very much, for example we had to get rid of tens of thousands of parking bays which have been illegally carved out where there should be sidewalks so we took tens of thousands of parking bays away and we made big sidewalks and there was a huge outrage from shop owners but then afterwards they realized how much life had improved how the real estate prices had gone up how crime had gone down how they were selling more - After you left were these policies continued by your successors? The mayors that have come afterwards have continued and it would be impossible really, for someone to reverse these policies and on the contrary I think we will have to make them even more radical our dream is to totally ban car use during peak hours everyday In many countries they have car free days where they close off a few streets to cars during a day but we close the whole 7 million habitants city to cars during one week day a thursday And this again is not only an experiment in environmental transport but this an exercise in social integration because we get upper income people and lower income people everybody going out to find public transport we allow taxis to operate that day but most people use buses or ride bicycles We show ourselves that it's possible to organize the city without private cars - In addition to being mayor of Bogota you've also been a visiting scholar in NYU and you've lived in New York so you have an apartment here in New York - Yes, I love New York - And I guess, we were just walking down the street before and you were talking about some of the things that you would like to see and that you think make a lot of sense to do here and it would be great to get some of your ideas on that - I think what changes cities are things that are different I would almost say crazy New York for example could turn all Broadway into a pedestrian street all the way from the bridge to the tip on Manhattan And if you don't to turn the whole Broadway into a pedestrian street do take half of Broadway into a very large, giant sidewalk with bicycle ways And at least on Sundays it could be closed up completely so to allow people to access Central Park from different areas of Manhattan for example I think there are some wonderful things that have been done recently lately The bike way around... ...the island The Hudson River park This is wonderful, but here in Manhattan for example there could be at least a few cross town bicycle ways We cannot continue to decieve ourselves thinking that to paint a little line on the road is a bike way A bicycle way which is not safe for an 8 year old is not a bicycle way Hopefully to do a whole network of very well protected physically protected bicycle ways all across Manhattan And only a few hundred cars which are now parked would be affected by these measures, which is nothing next to the millions that would bennefict from this The 42nd street project where they turned 42nd street into a pedestrian street from East River to the Hudson River put in a TRAM It would be fantastic! Manhattan has all the qualities for a successful pedestrian and bicycle street because Manhattan is dense is very dense distances are relatively very short so it's perfect for walking or for bicycling and is very flat so there are no significant hills So, these are just some of the projects which could be implemented in Manhattan Mathematically it is totally impossible to solve the transportation problems of a city using cars because cars simply don't fit it's impossible if everybody wants to move by car Time lost in traffic jams is increasing every year There is a conflict between a city that is frienldy to cars and a city that is friendly to people because if you have very wide streets where cars go very fast they become obstacles to people they are menacing they are threatening The United States is a fantastic society it's an example to the world in so many aspects as a part in its culture the movies, the music the universities, the libraries but not everything is ideal and one of those problems is this suburban highway culture I believe New York could be even better If we would take a lot of space away from parked cars and give it to pedestrians, for example or to bicycles The importance of public pedestrian space is obvious in how every sidewalk is clogged The mayor of Manhattan and the city council members would be surprised how they may receive much more political beneficts from these measures which are relatively cost free We underestimate the power of dreams The most difficult thing is to dream and to create a collective dream or a shared vision I think it's time to take the great risks and to do something new to do the new New York

Video Details

Duration: 12 minutes and 8 seconds
Country: United States
Language: English
Producer: The Open Planning Project
Director: Clarence Eckerson Jr.
Views: 3,260
Posted by: bluey on May 1, 2007

As mayor of Bogotá, Colombia, Enrique Peñalosa accomplished remarkable changes of monumental proportions for the people of his country in just three years.

Peñalosa changed the way Bogotá treated its non-driving citizens by restricting automobile use and instituting a bus rapid transit system which now carries a 1/2 million residents daily. Among other improvements: he widened and rebuilt sidewalks, created grand public spaces, and implemented over one hundred miles of bicycle paths.

TOPP Executive Director Mark Gorton discusses with Peñalosa some of these transportation achievements and asks what the future could hold for NYC if similar improvements were made here.

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