After watching Urbanized the other night, I couldn’t stop thinking about Bogota, Columbia, and former mayor Enrique Penalosa. Among a variety of other things, Penalosa talks about how parking isn’t a right nor is it a government problem when people can’t figure out where to put their cars. He’s entertaining and affable as he makes an essentially conservative point, though in contemporary America it seems fairly radical.
I tried to find that segment of the film online but couldn’t. Instead, however, I found a variety of articles on how Penalosa helped transform his city into a place for people instead of cars. Among them, this Grist piece notes how his focus differed from that of many other world mayors:
“We had to build a city not for businesses or automobiles, but for children and thus for people,” said a man in a speech last year. “Instead of building highways, we restricted car use. … We invested in high-quality sidewalks, pedestrian streets, parks, bicycle paths, libraries; we got rid of thousands of cluttering commercial signs and planted trees. … All our everyday efforts have one objective: Happiness.”
I also found the video below, which comes from the people at StreetsBlog.
In the video, Penalosa doesn’t mince words about the conflict facing contemporary cities:
The essence of the conflict today really is cars and people.That is the essence of the whole discussion. We can have a city that is very friendly to cars, or a city that is very friendly to people. We cannot have both.
That conflict plays out in Provo as much as in any city, though of course in unique ways.
Penalosa then goes on in the video to advocate for a vast network of safe pedestrian and bicycle paths, removal of parking, and other things. He also explains that in his city “public good pervades over private transport.”
That means giving priority to bicycle lanes and public transit. Keep in mind, it doesn’t mean some investment in biking and buses — as is the case in Provo and other American cities — it means giving those modes priority over traditional car transit. And all this is in a historically poor, violent and troubled city. Provo should be able to do at least as well.