A World Without Cars
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.
Question: Is it possible to have a city without cars?
We have had cities in the world for about 5,000 years, from Babylon and Ohr, and all of these wonderful cities. And for 5,000 years, all the streets were only for pedestrians. Even when we see pictures of New York in 1910, you see people walking in the street. I mean in Manhattan you see everybody—Manhattan was a pedestrian city in 1910. Everybody was walking in the middle of the street.
But the twentieth century was a disaster because we made cities much more for cars than for people; and we made horrible things such as the FDR and things like this. But, happily, all over the world this began to change at the end of twentieth century. We realized we had made a big mistake everywhere—that we have made cities for cars, not for people, so in Europe they began to pedestrianize streets. Now there is not one single city of town in Europe where there is not at least several blocks or a large area only pedestrian for a few streets. They began to make bigger sidewalks to get rid of street parking. And everywhere in the world I would say that in any advanced city today transport policy translates in to how to reduce car use.
Question: How can New York reduce its care usage?
But I think the best way to do it is to have–-to restrict parking. I think more progressively that should be a goal. We can also ask the people in New York, because it's only a minority of people who have cars. We should ask the people, "Do you want these cars parked there or do you want these beautiful big sidewalks with bicycle ways around in Manhattan?" Why can't of people in Manhattan vote on this? Why can't people in Manhattan vote whether they want beautiful network of bicycle ways and bigger sidewalks or do they want cars parked there?
So I think the way to restrict cars in Manhattan is, first of all, to get rid of curbside parking in the street. You cannot just do a negative reinforcement to get rid of the parking. You have to use something in exchange, which is a beautiful sidewalk or a beautiful bicycle way, or both.
So, and the second thing to do is to charge for the cars coming through the bridges, which are free. There are still many bridges –it is very easy to do congestion charging in Manhattan because you don't really have to do congestion charging. You just have to charge for crossing the bridges. It is a little even contradictory to have congestion charging when you allow people to cross the bridges for free. So I really believe that the first thing to do in Manhattan is to charge on the Manhattan Bridge and Williamsburg Bridge, and all the other bridges where people are going across the bridge for free.
The money that you collect from charging to cars, you can invest in improving pedestrian and bicycle ways and to subsidized public transport to make better and cheaper public transport, for everybody.
On the importance of improving public transportation
Enrique Penalosa: I think, in my areas of New York, you will need to improve -- New York has some of the best subway system in the world but still it doesn't go many places. There are many places which are under sale by public transport so you need great public transport and I think you need to improve the bus service. I mean, you need to have busses that go much faster. You need busses that really go in exclusive bus lanes, that go much faster and to many more places. To take a bus in New York is absurdly slow. I mean, it is almost faster to go walking.
Enrique Peñalosa outlines the way to rid New York of automobiles.
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