Why buses represent democracy in action

In this inspiring TED Talk, Enrique Peñalosa, mayor of Bogotá from 1998 until 2001 and re-elected for a new term in 2015, argues that “an advanced city is not one where even the poor use cars, but rather one where even the rich use public transport.”

He is talking about equality for the quality of life, especially for children: all children should have, beyond the obvious health and education, access to green spaces, to sports facilities, to swimming pools, to music lessons. He is talking about public transport as a tool for “democratic equality” and is admitting that buses are not sexy, but claiming that they are the only possible means to bring mass transit to all areas of fast growing developing cities. (Guangzhou is moving more passengers our direction than all subway lines in China). Besides public transport, what really makes a difference between advanced and backward cities is not highways or subways but the quality of sidewalks. Mayor Peñalosa emphasizes the importance of bicycles and bike lanes, saying that a citizen on a $30 bicycle is equally important to one in a $30,000 car.

He believes that more than half of the cities that will exist by 2060 are still to be built, and his recommendation is hundreds of kilometers of greenways criss-crossing cities in all directions, and aiming for a city in which every other street would be a street only for pedestrians and bicycles. Hundreds of kilometers of streets only for buses, bicycles and pedestrians should be projected for future cities. 


He concludes his TED Talk on a optimistic note regarding future cities: ‘The cities we are going to build over the next 50 years will determine quality of life and even happiness for billions of people towards the future. What a fantastic opportunity for leaders and many young leaders to come, especially in the developing countries. They can create a much happier life for billions towards the future. I am sure, I am optimistic, that they will make cities better than our most ambitious dreams.’

Photo: www.piecefit.com


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