An accomplished public official, economist and administrator, Enrique Peñalosa completed his three-year term as Mayor of Bogotá, Colombia on December 31, 2000. While mayor, Peñalosa was responsible for numerous radical improvements to the city and its citizens. He promoted a city model giving priority to children and public spaces and restricting private car use, building hundreds of kilometers of sidewalks, bicycle paths, pedestrian streets, greenways, and parks. After organizing a Car-Free Day in 2000, he was awarded the Stockholm Challenge Award and rewarded by a referendum vote endorsing an annual car-free day and the elimination of all cars from streets during rush hours from 2015 onwards.
Thanks to his extensive efforts to make Bogota a greener, more livable city, Peñalosa now serves as an adviser and model to the Bloomberg administration, which in recent years has undertaken the serious work of greening New York City.
He currently works with Project for Public Spaces, a New York City-based nonprofit organization dedicated to helping people create and sustain public places that build communities.
While Mayor, Peñalosa also led efforts to improve Bogotá's marginal neighborhoods through citizen involvement; planted more than 100,000 trees; created a new, highly successful bus-based transit system; and turned a deteriorated downtown avenue into a dynamic pedestrian public space. He helped transform the city's attitude from one of negative hopelessness to one of pride and hope, developing a model for urban improvement based on the equal rights of all people to transportation, education, and public spaces.
I think New York will be an example. New York is an example to the planet. But New York is an example and I think clearly there is a challenge to complete the whole bicycle way all around Manhattan, in the Upper West Side, and I mean, especially to the north. It is necessary to work a lot to complete the pedestrian and bicycle walkway by the water side.
There are many, many streets where protected bicycle ways are needed because -- and some even seems to be – some were painted initially and now they seem to be getting better, like on 10th street It's like getting a raise, the one that was painted. So clearly there is a space in New York which is the real issue—it is the parking space for cars in the streets. The United States Constitution has many rights. People in the United States have a right to live without fear, without crime; they have a right to free education. They have a right to work—many rights. But parking is not a constitutional right. I think it should be questioned more seriously whether how to use this space which is now being taken by cars parking by the curbside.
It is a small minority of people who are taking up this extremely valuable space in the streets of New York, to park. I think in many streets you could get rid of parking and make some much bigger sidewalks, make some fantastic protected bicycle ways in all directions. Some regulations, I think, also have to be enacted so that people can walk in with bicycles into the elevators and into the hallways so that—if people can go with dogs or with shoes into a hallway or in an elevator, why not go with a bicycle? But this—New York I think, and Manhattan I think in particular, is the perfect city for everybody to move by bicycle. Even in the winter it is possible–most of the winter, with some coats-to go by bicycle everywhere.