"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.