Forum convenes community leaders to move cities from talk to action

Above: Testing innovative modes of transportation at the EcoMobility Festival in Suwon City, South Korea. From left, Gil Penalosa, executive director of 8-80 Cities; Suwon Mayor Tae-Young Yeom; and Konrad Otto-Zimmerman, secretary-general of ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability and festival creative director. Photo credit: 8-80 Cities, EcoMobility World Festival 2013.

Gil Penalosa is the former commissioner of parks, sport and recreation for the city of Bogota, Colombia, and executive director of 8-80 Cities, a nonprofit that promotes cities as places where people can walk, bike, access public transit and connect in vibrant public spaces. Below, he writes about “The Doable City” forum, which Knight Foundation supports. RELATED LINK

Creating cities that work for work people” by Carol Coletta on

We’ve been building cities for thousands of years, but for most of the last century we’ve been planning them around moving cars from place to place rather than the happiness of the people who live in them. 

What makes a great city? I have had the opportunity to travel and visit many cities around the world, meeting with government decision-makers, community leaders, and citizens both young and old. Unfortunately, only a few cities share the great qualities that all of them could have: a good transit system; fantastic parks and public spaces; being walkable; and, like Copenhagen, bikeable areas that reduce congestion and increase the overall health of the population. People of all ages are out on the streets, walking to restaurants, biking to work, enjoying parks with friends and families. It’s not a financial issue. It’s not a technical issue. It’s a political issue. Let’s build cities for everyone. “The Doable City” forum will bring us closer to that.

We’ve probably all heard many reasons for why it can’t be done: It’s too cold, it’s too expensive, it’ll take too long, and implicitly it may not be popular from a political perspective; but if we focus on what we can do right now – making strategic changes – in the end there will be big differences. It’s like the Ciclovia in Bogota, which simply opens the streets to people and provides free and accessible recreation to millions of people every weekend. Or, like Times Square in New York, which transformed a car-dominated street into a safe and vibrant place for people, with little money and lots of political guts.

Every city is unique in its own way, and as a community of leaders we face uniquely similar problems moving forward, but we can’t afford to wait another 20 years for change to happen; we need to develop a sense of urgency and start making improvements for our cities and our citizens right now.

The Doable City, the inaugural 8-80 Cities forum, will bring together civic and community innovators from across the continent for three days of keynote sessions, hands-on learning, and knowledge sharing. Delegates will have the opportunity to hear from leading experts in North America on walkability; bikeability and mobility; the enhancement of parks and public spaces; creating happy, healthy cities for all; developing a sense of urgency; and moving from talking to doing.

Register for “8-80 Cities Forum: The Doable City” and join community leaders and civic innovators for keynotes, panels and hands-on learning, which are designed to give you the knowledge and skills to initiate and implement doable solutions to help your city thrive.