Articles by

Guillermo Penalosa

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    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. 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.