Friday, May 15, 2009
Bogotá: Building a Sustainable City
The transformaton of Bogotá, Colombia
Podcast During his tenure as mayor of Bogotá, Colombia, Enrique Peñalosa was both revered and scorned for his urban planning and transportation policies. His public works projects, which largely favored the pedestrian experience, were unlike anything previously built in Bogotá. Peñalosa describes the environmental and social importance of minimizing automobile culture.
As few as 10 years ago Bogotá, Colombia, was characterized by narco groups, senseless violence and a 30-year civil war. Every three hours someone was kidnapped. Every 15 minutes someone was killed. At one point there was not an upper- or middle-class Colombian family that did not know somebody who had been abducted.
As you move around the city today, you will see mega-libraries, greenways, 1,000 parks, over 70,000 trees and a state-of-the art transportation system called the transMilenio, which translates "transcending the millennium."
The TransMilenio is an alternative to the chaotic, independently operated bus service that dominated the city in the past. Along with this infrastructure, you'll see people from all walks of life who are out of their cars and enjoying the city: parents strolling with kids, co-workers eating lunch outside, neighbors meeting and talking with one another.
Cyclovia en Bogota, Colombia
How did this remarkable transition happen to Bogotá? It came out of the vision that Enrique Peñalosa, Bogotá's mayor from 1997 through 2000, had for his city. He wanted to reverse the decades-long norm of poverty, drug cartels and violence, and make citizens proud of the metropolis in which they lived. Peñalosa believed that cities should encourage walking and biking, which would in turn promote community and make the streets safer for children. With these ideas in mind he reformed public transportation, added greenways, built mega-libraries and created the longest stretch of bike-only lanes in the world. Peñalosa's commitment to reducing automobile usage even led to a program called the "pico y placa" ("peak times and license plates"), which greatly restricts the use of private automobiles at peak times.
The documentary highlights the story of how one man's vision transformed one of the most chaotic cities in the world into a shining model of urban planning, community development and public transportation. Although by Peñalosa's own admission there is more work to be done, the transformation thus far is remarkable and has been lauded as an example for the world to follow.
A great documentary on the transformation of the capital of Colombia, Bogotá
Bogotá: Building a Sustainable City (Part 2)
Bogotá: Building a Sustainable City (Part 3)