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A shot in the arm from Enrique Penalosa

[Enrique Penalosa]
Photo: Clarence Eckerson

Last Saturday, I sat in the Bagdad Theater and heard over and over again how fantastic Portland is. The films and the speakers at a Film Celebration of Portland Transportation heaped praise upon Portland’s progressive bicycle and transportation achievements.

And then along came a Clarence Eckerson film with an interview of Enrique Penalosa.

As Mayor of Bogota Colombia from 1998-2001, Penalosa radically altered the social and cultural landscape of that city by taking bold steps to encourage use of public transportation and bicycles.

Since Clarence first sent me a preview of that interview back in April, I’ve had a post titled, “Enrique Penalosa is my hero” sitting in my “Drafts” folder. On Saturday, his words were just as powerful as when I was inspired to start that post.

I’ll let you research the man yourself (start here), but I want to share his words below. I think they’re important for us to hear because while we’re doing great things in this city to encourage alternate modes of transportation, much of the low-hanging fruit has been picked.

Now it’s time for the big projects and risky moves that will help us be the first US city to really tip the scales away from private motor vehicles.

“We cannot continue to deceive ourselves into thinking that to paint a little line on a road is a bikeway. A bicycle way which is not safe for an eight year-old is not a bicycle way.”

“Mathematically it is totally impossible to solve the transportation problems of a city using cars.”

“I think that what changes cities are things that are different…I would almost say crazy.”

“The essence of the conflict today, really, is cars versus people…We can have a city that is very friendly to cars, or a city that is very friendly to people. We cannot have both.”

“We give priority to public transport in the use of road space. So public good prevails over private transport.”

[Progress. A vision realized by Penalosa’s bold moves.]
Photo from StreetsBlog

For more of Penalosa, check out the full interview (12 min.) or a shorter version on YouTube.

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