Democratic Transport

A bikeway is a symbol that shows that a citizen on a $30 bicycle is equally important as a citizen on a $30,000 car. — Enrique Peñalosa, former Mayor of Bogata

Urbanized is a documentary by Gary Hustwit about the future of designing cities. A screening was organized last week by @mjays using Gidsy, the “marketplace for authentic experiences”. As my first Gidsy experience, it definitely seems like a fun, easy way to host cool events.

The film was filled with nuggets of wisdom, and some honest quips (“Now, you might not agree with me if you listen to NPR, but I love my backyard and my pool. And Phoenix is not the poster child of sprawl,” retorts an Arizona zoning official. Cut to the New Urbanist Ellen Dunham-Jones: “Sprawl is like pornography. You know it when you see it.“)

I was particularly impressed with Enrique Peñalosa, the former Mayor of Bogata, whose accomplishments included an extensive, modern bus route, bike paths, and restricted raised parking in the city. I’ll have to check with my aunt, a researcher specializing in environmental issues in Colombia, about Peñalosa’s true effectiveness, but in general the politician had a very democratic way of talking about transport.

“There are a lot of important things written in the Constitution. But the right to have a parking space is not one of them.” He smiles.

Buses have priority on our roads. Because if each citizen should have equal claim to public roads, then a bus with 100 people should have 100 times more space than a car with 1 person.

There were many more gems from Peñalosa and others, including an architect of a poor Chilean neighborhood, who advocates for participatory design:

In building these homes for the poor, we faced a decision. Do we put in a water heater or a bath tub? There is not space for both. Many architects and city planners proposed a water heater. But when we asked the residents, 100% of them chose bath tubs. Why? Because they do not have money for the heating bill. This is why participatory design is important.

I encourage you check out Urbanized! A smart film with inspiring ideas and an impressive look at cities around the globe.

Image courtesy Swiss Dots Ltd.

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