Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Bogota puts Sydney to shame

Carr-addicted Sydney was put to shame last night by the achievements of Enrique Penalosa, former Mayor of Bogota Colombia, who spoke at a free talk put on by the Council at Angel Place Auditorium.

Penalosa had confronted powerful interest groups and took electoral risks by rejecting the typical RTA solution of building more roads to solve traffic jams. This was like putting out a fire with gasoline, he said.

A major study by Japanese engineers had recommended a Darling Harbour-style aerial freeway cutting across Bogotar. Penalosa instead built a 35km Greenway through the city, built first for buses, bikes and pedestrians and filled with trees and greenery. Cars came a poor last -- and the people loved it.

He also went on a campaign to remove cars from sidewalks -- he showed slides of previous car anarchy with the demand for parking in the cash-strapped city dominating most public space, to the detriment of social amenity. By contrast, later slides showed people walking, cycling and congregating in the freed space.

He overcame stiff resistance from pro-car interest groups and from a golf course which lost some land to the Greenway.

"It is much easier to tell the story than to do this," he said, raising a laugh from the audience.

He redirected scarce city resources towards an integrated bus system with car-free express routes interchanging with local routes at stations. One ticket gives all-day travel and there is a flat price for all, regardless of the distance travelled. This helped the poorer people who tended to live further out of town -- their fares were subsidised by the richer people in the centre doing shorter trips.

Instead of paving roads and carparks, limited money was spent creating and paving children's amenities, along with a network of free public libraries with computer acess. Slides showed well constructed civic areas surrounded by carparks which resembled bogs.

Traffic jams are a good thing, said Penalosa, because they were a cost-free way of limiting traffic. His message was that car use had to be restricted in conjunction with the improved public transport and cycle facilities. Rather than a congestion charge which dominates the Sydney debate, the rapt audience heard about a tag scheme which kept 40% of cars off the road two days a week. The City's main drag was closed to traffic on Sundays, a move which is so popular that if the police forget to erect the roadblocks on time, the locals do it with rocks and junk.

When asked how he bulldozed his vision through, he recommended a 'dictatorial' approach, taking the political gamble that the moves would prove popular afterwards. We in NSW are used to that -- only our dictators are Philistine carr-loving headkickers living in a 1950s dreamland.

Penalosa is running for the presidency of Columbia this year and has published a number of books including "Democracy and Capitalism: Challenges of the Coming Century." He said Sydney was the most beautiful city he had seen and wished he had all our problems, in an ironic reference to the relative wealth we have.

Clover Moore opened the talk and remained in the audience with her new General Manager, Peter Seamer.


Anonymous said...

Anyone else get the feeling there's a concerted attack against clover moore and her plans?

There seems to be a lot of comments coming from John Howard and elsewhere that don't usually comment on local issues.

Anonymous said...

It's not just Clover Moore -- Roads Minister Michael Costa described independent North Sydney Council's proposal to double parking permit fees for 4WDs as 'pc nonsense'. -- on radio this morning.

Party hacks just hate independents!

Anonymous said...

Enrique Penalosa, former Mayor of Bogota Colombia should be invited to Kings Cross. He should be shown the grand vision the former proposed star of the Vagina Monologue came up with for Springfield Mall and compare it with his grand vision.

If you cannot design a tiny Mall then there is no hope for this city. But wait there’s moore. What about a new swimming pool. Springfield Mall could become a public swimming pool.

Anonymous said...

Enrique is running as an independent for President in 2006 - now that really is something we can think about. President Moore has a kind of a good sound ......

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Jorge Hernandez said...

Enrique PeƱalosa drop out on his career as president of Colombia a week ago.

The Editor said...

That's a shame! Good to see someone is still reading this little old blog. Is Mr Penalosa as popular as he made out in his talk?