Ben Bartosik

August 9, 2023

Been reading a bit about Enrique Peñalosa, the former mayor of Bogotá, who attempted to change the trajectory that the city was on. Throughout the 20th C, Bogotá had become dominated by private vehicles and had privatized much of its public space. Peñalosa believed that cities could inspire happiness if they were planned for people, rather than cars. During his time as mayor he scrapped highway expansions, installed bike paths and public parks, put in a highly ambitious rapid transit system, increased gas taxes, and began to ban cars from the city centre.

Of course not all of these changes were readily accepted by the public and certain demographics pushed back. But he held to a conviction that we don't have to just give in and do things the way they always have been. Cities can be whatever we want them to be.

“A city can be friendly to people or it can be friendly to cars, but it can't be both.” -- Peñalosa

It's amazing how easily we acquiesce in our planning to car centric thinking. We look at busy streets, backed up traffic, drivers making unsafe decisions, and think we can solve this by adding more infrastructure for private vehicles. Give them more lanes, make it so they don't have to wait at lights, make parking more available. The results of this are always the same: if you make streets better for cars, more people will drive on them. We need to fight this impulse. Instead of making things easier for drivers, make them harder. De-prioritize the convenience of private vehicles and invest in helping people get around in other ways.

In every way this makes a city better.