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2007 08 02
Bogota Shows How We Can Reinvent Toronto - We Only Have To Want To
An image of Bogota's protected bicycle lanes.

The former mayor of Bogota, Colombia explains how the once crime-ridden city is now a model for effective transit and urban design. How'd they do it? City planners recognized that the great battle over public space in cities is between two main forces: the needs of people and the needs of cars. In Bogota people are winning that fight. In our so-called world class city, our car-centric city administration is unable to make the hard choices required to elevate the majority's needs over the needs of the minority of car users. Adding one kilometer of bike lanes when hundreds are required is such an affront that in a civilized city the politicians behind such a policy would soon be without jobs.

My recent trip to Sweden, Denmark, France, and England revealed how much European cities are doing to promote efficient transit policies. In Gothenberg and in Copenhagen, for example, road designers seem to pay as much attention to building cycle roadways as they do building roads for cars. They are integrated and to some degree symbiotic. These are northern cities remember, they get snow just like Toronto does, yet people there cycle all year round. Still, we expect first-world, high-tech countries to embrace urban design best practices. However, when a problem plagued city like Bogota - I visited and worked there in the mid-eighties - can reinvent itself in less than fifteen years we have to ask why Toronto continues to lag so far behind.

My favourite quote from the former mayor?
"A protected bicycle path is a symbol that a citizen on a $30 bicycle is equally important as one in a $30,000 car."

That is the philosophical difference between the two cities. In Toronto we acknowledge that cars and their drivers remain the focus of our policies.

Take a few minutes to listen to Mr. Peñalosa. It is worth your time. I can't guarantee, however, that you won't dash off a scathing letter to city hall when you are finished watching.

[email this story] Posted by R Ouellette on 08/02 at 01:46 PM

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