April 22, 2009

Enrique Peñalosa Challenges Boston to Create Safe Streets for All

In February this year, Enrique Peñalosa, former mayor of Bogotá, visited Boston to speak about transforming the city into a world-class model of urban happiness and sustainable transportation.  At numerous events attended by over 1,000 people, Peñalosa asked people to imagine their city as one where citizens feel safe and happy.  He challenged the people in Boston to create streets where children could play, ride bikes and be children without fear of getting injured by cars.

The LivableStreets Alliance, a non-profit organization that believes urban transportation has the power to make Boston a more connected, livable place, organized Peñalosa’s visit as part of his ITDP sponsored “urban happiness” tour to U.S. cities.

A public kick-off presentation at the Boston Public Library drew over 400 attendees, who packed into a standing room only auditorium to hear Peñalosa describe the changes he oversaw during his tenure as mayor of Bogotá.  Peñalosa then met with Mayor Thomas M. Menino, who a week later announced an ambitious bicycle-share plan for the city.

Peñalosa also observed problems with the Silver Line bus en route to Dudley Square station. Opponents of bus rapid transit (BRT) in U.S. cities often point to the failure of Boston’s Silver Line as a reason to invest in other types of public transit instead, such as light rail. The inflated capital outlay for the Silver Line, due to tunnel infrastructure built to support a partially underground system, is a major focus of criticism.  The Silver Line, however, lacks most of the essential pieces of a true BRT system like pre-paid boarding, dedicated bus lanes along congested roadways and traffic signal priority technology.

Peñalosa took a bike tour of the Southwest Corridor with Ken Kruckemeyer, a longtime sustainable transportation advocate and professor at MIT who helped stop a massive highway project from being built in place of the greenway.  Peñalosa opposed similar plans in Bogotá.

Additionally, Bikes Not Bombs in Jamaica Plain invited community leaders and kids to meet Peñalosa.  Bikes Not Bombs has been working for decades on sustainable transportation issues, developing dynamic community-inclusive programs such as after-school workshops which teach kids how to assemble and maintain bikes.  Peñalosa also spoke to MoveMass, a group of professionals working on planning and urban design, and had lunch with WalkBoston, a non-profit membership organization dedicated to improving walking conditions in cities and towns across Massachusetts.

Municipal leaders in the U.S. are looking for innovative urban strategies to develop a competitive edge in livability and rejuvenate their communities.  Peñalosa has been successful in using his experience to inspire citizens.  Other cities he has visited include D.C., Waco, Austin, Denver and Boulder. His “urban happiness” tour continues later this year to San Francisco and Chicago.

The LivableStreets Alliance promotes safe, convenient, and affordable transportation for all users in urban Boston. LivableStreets believes that to remain a competitive, world-class city, Boston needs a world-class transportation network, one that makes the city a better place to live, work, and play.

In the News:
Enrique Penalosa Brings Inspiration to Boston – a StreetsFilm
StreetFilms

Bogota Mayor Enrique Penalosa tells Bostonians how they can create a happier city
Journalism Students’ Online News Service
5 February 2009

Impressions Of Enrique Peñalosa Event in Boston Public Library
Boston Biker
6 February 2009

Enrique Peñalosa: an urban innovator draws a crowd
Examiner.com Boston
9 February 2009

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