"When you construct a good sidewalk, you are constructing democracy"
So says Enrique Peñalosa, the former mayor of Bogotá, Colombia, in a recent interview with the New York Times about urban planning in developing-world cities. Peñalosa (right) claims that too many world cities emphasize the building of roads at the expense of sidewalks, which is especially harmful in those cities where a majority of citizens can't afford cars. An excerpt from the interview:
NYT: As a former mayor of Bogotá, Colombia, who won wide praise for making the city a model of enlightened planning, you have lately been hired by officials intent on building world-class cities, especially in Asia and the developing world. What is the first thing you tell them?
EP: In developing-world cities, the majority of people don't have cars, so I will say, when you construct a good sidewalk, you are constructing democracy. A sidewalk is a symbol of equality.
NYT: I wouldn't think that sidewalks are a top priority in developing countries.
EP: The last priority. Because the priority is to make highways and roads. We are designing cities for cars, cars, cars, cars, cars. Not for people. Cars are a very recent invention. The 20th century was a horrible detour in the evolution of the human habitat. We were building much more for cars' mobility than children's happiness.
Despite Peñalosa's distaste for roads versus sidewalks, he says that he drives an armored SUV. "We had some problems," he says.
I guess that's understandable. After all, he was the mayor of Bogotá.