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Posts from the "Enrique Peñalosa" Category

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Enrique Peñalosa in SF: A Livable Streets Visionary Shares His Wisdom

This weekend, San Francisco was treated to a visit by Enrique Peñalosa, the livable streets visionary who spearheaded a transportation revolution as mayor of Bogotá, Colombia by championing ideas like car-free streets, bus rapid transit, and protected bikeways. Peñalosa, who now professes his vision to city leaders worldwide, spoke at Sunday Streets in the Mission and at a SPUR forum.

Enrique Peñalosa speaking in front of Mission Playground during Sunday Streets, with Livable City’s Tom Radulovich behind. Photo: Aaron Bialick

Sunday Streets, of course, was inspired by Peñalosa’s Ciclovia program, which opens many miles of streets every week.

“Why is it so special? Why is it so magical?,” Peñalosa asked during a speech on Valencia Street. “It’s like a ritual of reconquering the city for human beings… it’s always fun to do the things that we are not allowed to do.”

In thinking about how cities use street space, Peñalosa emphasizes the importance of equity and democracy as a rubric. “Road space is one of the most valuable resources a city has,” he said. “San Francisco could find oil or diamonds underground and it would not be as valuable. The question is how to distribute this road space between pedestrians, bicyclists, public transport, and cars. There is no technical way of doing it. There is no legal way of doing it.”

In San Francisco, like most cities, the vast majority of street space is devoted primarily to moving and storing private automobiles. In many neighborhoods, even the sidewalks are used for parking — an absurd situation Peñalosa took on as mayor in Bogotá.

“Sidewalks are much closer relatives to parks than to streets,” he said. ”To say that on a sidewalk, there is enough space to park cars as well as for people to walk by, is equivalent to saying that we can turn the main park or plaza into a parking lot — so long as we leave enough space for people to walk by.”

Many of SF’s battles over re-allocating street space for people focus on maintaining car parking. To that, Peñalosa says, ”We should remember that parking is not a constitutional right.”

Peñalosa pointed out that there’s no other piece of personal property for which the public provides free space for its storage. When someone buys a refrigerator, for example, the public isn’t obligated to provide a kitchen.

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Enrique Peñalosa Urges SF to Embrace Pedestrians and Public Space

Enrique_small.jpgPhoto: Matthew Roth
Celebrated Colombian urbanist and former mayor of Bogotá Enrique Peñalosa told a standing room audience of more than one hundred people at the San Francisco Public Library last night that San Francisco can be friendly to cars or to people, but not both. Further, he argued that there is no fundamental technical reason why streets have to function only as free-flowing arteries to move cars, but that the state of our cities in America is a political decision that we can overturn and that American's perceptions of what is possible in cities will follow suit.

"I don't say this as a car-hater--I have a car, I think cars can be wonderful to go to the countryside--but clearly the faster cars go in a city, the wider the roads are, the less pleasant is it to be around. The narrower the street, the slower the speeds, the wider the sidewalks, the better you can feel. High-velocity urban roads are sort of fences in a cow pasture."

Road space, he argued, is the most valuable asset in a city and it is a resource that society can use as it pleases, distributing it between all transportation modes or only one. He stated what is obvious, but what seems to rarely be acknowledged by traffic engineers and politicians in San Francisco: less space for cars will mean less cars. "There is no such thing as a 'natural' level of car use in a city. There is nothing technical about how much space you should give to cars or to pedestrians. It's not like you have to ask a transport engineer permission. What is clear is this is a political decision."

Peñalosa's trip was underwritten by the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP) and was part of the kick-off of the Great Streets Project, a join initiative between the SFBC, SPUR, Project for Public Spaces, and The Livable Streets Initiative (parent company of Streetsblog). Peñalosa earlier in the day met with Mayor Gavin Newsom, which he said went quite well.

"I think [Newsom] was very sensitive to all these issues and he even told some of his people to look into how these things are being used in other cities, the designs that are being used to improve the pedestrian and bicycle spaces there," he said.

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Livable Streets Expert Enrique Peñalosa Comes to San Francisco

San Francisco's livable streets advocates have a chance to participate in a public forum tomorrow with Enrique Peñalosa, who, as mayor of traffic-clogged Bogotá, Colombia, implemented a s⁞weeping set of improvements to transit and the pedestrian realm.

bogota_plaza.jpgA public plaza in Bogotá, Columbia.

These initiatives include the Ciclovia, a model for San Francisco's own Sunday Streets program, and an expansive Bus Rapid Transit system, which is viewed as a gold standard and a template for other cities considering BRT. His vision for the world's largest cities includes more public spaces, extensive networks of bike paths, greater pedestrian facilities and improved transit.

The forum, entitled "Sunday Streets to Great Streets", is part of the public launch of the San Francisco Great Streets Project (GSP), a campaign led by the SFBC and SPUR. The GSP is intended to catalyze the return of San Francisco's streets to the center of civic life by working with government, business and neighborhood leaders to test, analyze and institutionalize placemaking.

Peñalosa's visit represents the GSP making good on one of its three principles: to bring experts from around the country and around the world to demonstrate best practice examples and offer instructive advice to San Franciscans. The visit follows closely on the opening of the 17th Street pedestrian plaza, which fulfilled the GSP's second principal: to help organize communities around trial projects on the ground that test livable streets ideas.

Despite recent positive developments such as the 17th Street plaza and the successful launch of Sunday Streets, many of San Francisco's streets still have much room for improvement, and tomorrow's forum will be a chance to discuss this with someone who made major strides in a city that started with public spaces in far worse condition than San Francisco's. Check out some of Streetsfilms' classic films on Peñalosa, and be sure to come tomorrow if you can!

Sunday Streets to Great Streets: Enrique Peñalosa. Tuesday, July 7, 2009 5:30-7:30 p.m. at Koret Auditorium, San Francisco Main Public Library (100 Larkin Street).

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Streetfilms: Enrique Peñalosa in Boston

When Boston livable streets advocates invited Enrique Peñalosa to town recently, Streetfilms' Robin Urban Smith made the trip to hear what the Colombian urbanist had to say to residents of "The Walking City." Watch here as Peñalosa speaks to a packed house at the Boston Public Library, and see what Bostonians think of their town's past, present and future transportation systems.