If you think the problems facing the world’s exploding cities are insurmountable then you need to spend a few hours on a bike alongside the former mayor of Bogota. That’s how I spent Thursday afternoon, and it left me with new hope for the global south, not to mention the bloated ‘burbs of Greater Vancouver.
Enrique Peñalosa presided over the transition of a city that the world–and many residents–had given up on. Bogota had lost itself in slums, chaos, violence, and traffic. During his three-year term, Penalosa brought in initiatives that would seem impossible in most cities, even here in the wealthy north. He built more than a hundred nurseries for children. He built 50 new public schools and increased enrolment by 34 percent. He built a network of libraries. He created a highly-efficient, “bus highway” transit system. He built or reconstructed hundreds of kilometers of sidewalks, more than 300 kilometres of bicycle paths, pedestrian streets, and more than 1,200 parks.
He did it all, in part, by declaring a war on private cars.