The Next American City

Question: What is the most important next step for American Cities?

Enrique Penalosa: We have to understand why people went to the suburbs.  It’s not because they were dumb.  It is because the suburbs were providing some things that the dense cities were not.  The suburbs provided, ironically, safe spaces for children to ride bicycles, because people wanted the children to play safe in the street and ride a bicycle and, ironically, these completely car-dependent environments provided that. 

Also, the suburbs provide green and contact with nature, more parks, but I believe it is possible to create cities which provide a little bit of both.  Higher density environments. You don’t need, by the way, fifty-story high buildings to have high density.  You can have just with five, six-story high buildings you can have very high densities, a huge amount of pedestrian and bicycle networks, greenways, bus-ways, and we could very easily, with very simple details, have completely different cities that would work much better than the ones that we have today.

Question: Are many American cities moving in the right direction?

What I see all over the United States it is clear.  I talked the Texas developers and they talk like the most progressive and expert urbanites about mixed use and density and all this, but I think we have to be even more radical, because we talk about the new urbanism [sic], in the U.S., which is like going back to this quaint 1900 town.

I think we can do some much more radical things with much bigger pedestrian spaces; some more creative and different conceptions of a modern city, giving much more importance to the bicycle.

Now we have a new machine that I think is going to contribute to completely changing the way we live, which is the electric bicycle--because this allows people to use bicycles over longer distances or over hills, or elderly people.

Bicycles; in the future I think protected bicycle ways are going to be as obvious as sidewalks are today, to have a protected bicycle everywhere. 

And the United States will have to develop in higher density environments. And the only way to do this is demolishing some of these inner suburbs, and making higher densities.  These new developments can be completely different, not just the typical street and sidewalk, but you could have, as we are talking about, completely different urban environments. 

Recorded on: Aug 4, 2009.

Enrique Peñalosa explains why we must be radical in reshaping urban space.

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Sponsored
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

4 reasons Martin Luther King, Jr. fought for universal basic income

In his final years, Martin Luther King, Jr. become increasingly focused on the problem of poverty in America.

(Photo by J. Wilds/Keystone/Getty Images)
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Despite being widely known for his leadership role in the American civil rights movement, Martin Luther King, Jr. also played a central role in organizing the Poor People's Campaign of 1968.
  • The campaign was one of the first to demand a guaranteed income for all poor families in America.
  • Today, the idea of a universal basic income is increasingly popular, and King's arguments in support of the policy still make a good case some 50 years later.
Keep reading Show less

Dead – yes, dead – tardigrade found beneath Antarctica

A completely unexpected discovery beneath the ice.

(Goldstein Lab/Wkikpedia/Tigerspaws/Big Think)
Surprising Science
  • Scientists find remains of a tardigrade and crustaceans in a deep, frozen Antarctic lake.
  • The creatures' origin is unknown, and further study is ongoing.
  • Biology speaks up about Antarctica's history.
Keep reading Show less

Why I wear my life on my skin

For Damien Echols, tattoos are part of his existential armor.

Videos
  • In prison Damien Echols was known by his number SK931, not his name, and had his hair sheared off. Stripped of his identity, the only thing he had left was his skin.
  • This is why he began tattooing things that are meaningful to him — to carry a "suit of armor" made up the images of the people and objects that have significance to him, from his friends to talismans.
  • Echols believes that all places are imbued with divinity: "If you interact with New York City as if there's an intelligence behind... then it will behave towards you the same way."
Keep reading Show less