Gil Penalosa’s keynote speech from the Carfree Conference

“We have learned how to survive, now we really need to learn how to live.”
–Gil Penalosa at the Carfree Conference last Tuesday

I have finally gotten a chance to upload my audio recording of Gil Penalosa’s keynote address to the Towards Carfree Cities Conference at Portland State University last Tuesday.

Penalosa’s speech and presentation garnered a standing ovation from a room full of the best and brightest minds in the international livable cities movement. His words — spoken in the context of a major shift in the transportation mindset of city leaders throughout the world — were the perfect way to kick off the five-day conference.

Below are a few select quotes followed by audio of his speech:


“It’s not one thing that creates a great city… it’s thousands and thousands of little ones.”

“70% of the public space in Los Angeles is dedicated to car mobility… 20% of public space in Paris is dedicated to car mobility. In which city would you rather live?

“It’s not about the money, it is not a technical issue, it is about priorities and political will.”

“Politicians need to have guts. They’ve got to have clarity that the general interest must prevail over the particular one.”

“We have to be engaged, we have to participate… pedestrians and cyclists seem to be transparent, invisible.”

“You’ve got to have a shared vision. Where is it that you want to go? Where is it that you want the community to be 10, 20, or 30 years from now? This has to be a shared vision by many people of the community.

… if you have a fantastic shared vision, and you collectively work at it, you can transform Portland, and then Oregon, and then the U.S. and the rest of the world!”

Gil Penalosa’s keynote speech at the 2008 Towards Carfree Cities Conference (1:11, I have snipped the first few minutes):

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Founder of BikePortland (in 2005). Father of three. North Portlander. Basketball lover. Car owner and driver. If you have questions or feedback about this site or my work, feel free to contact me at @jonathan_maus on Twitter, via email at, or phone/text at 503-706-8804. Also, if you read and appreciate this site, please become a supporter.

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Paul Tay
15 years ago

During the speech, it occurred to me that ALL transportation/bike-related decisions ARE really political decisions. DUH.

15 years ago

Political will? Let\’s reinforce the leaders that have a little and help all our leaders find a little more. May bikes lead this country\’s turn around.

West Cougar
West Cougar
15 years ago

Hmmm, hate to bring up the Flander\’s St bridge, but Gil\’s always reminding me of it.

15 years ago

Finally got around to listening to this. Thank you so much for posting it! I found it inspiring.