Skip to Content
Report an accessibility problem

Sustainability Videos & Lecture Series

Equity, Mobility, and the Quality of Urban Life

During this Wrigley lecture, accomplished public official and "new urbanist" Enrique PeƱalosa reflects on his decades of practice and leadership in the area of urban planning and policy and offer lessons for future equitable and sustainable city-regions.

Related Events: Equity, Mobility, and the Quality of Urban Life


This presentation is brought to you by Arizona State University's Global Institute of Sustainability and a generous investment by Julie Ann Wrigley. Wrigley Lecture Series-- world renowned thinkers and problem solvers engage the community in dialogues to address sustainability challenges.


Rob Melnick: Great. Thanks. I'm want to welcome everyone here to one of our Wrigley lectures for 2013. I'm Rob Melnick, the Executive Dean of the Global Institute of Sustainability. I know many of you are returnees to the lecture series. And some of you are new. We're especially excited about our speaker tonight, which you'll hear more about in a moment. The Wrigley Lecture Series is underwritten by our benefactor, Julie Wrigley.

And each year, we bring to campus, or to the community, as in this case, the lecture series, in which we have four very distinguished practitioners and scholars of sustainability talk to people, in our university, in our community, and, actually, from throughout the country, about important issues in sustainability practice, scholarship, and challenges, if you will.

Tonight, we're also happy to tell you that the selection of this particular speaker was done in concert with the Stardust Center for Affordable Homes and the Family. Normally, the Wrigley Speaker Series is selected by a committee internal to the university.

But in this case, because of the importance of affordable housing and the family and the fact that Stardust is now part of the Global Institute of Sustainability, we called upon the Stardust Advisory Board. Some of you are here tonight. And I want to thank each of you for giving us suggestions, including our speaker, this evening.

During the course of 2013, we're going to have four Wrigley speakers. And each hails from a different continent, which is part of our effort to put G in GIOS, the Global Institute of Sustainability. I'm not going to talk any longer, what I want to do is simply welcome you and introduce Aaron Golub.

Aaron is senior sustainability scientist with the Global Institute of Sustainability and also an assistant professor in the school of geographical sciences and urban planning. And Aaron will introduce our guest speaker tonight. Aaron?


Aaron Golub: It's a real honor to introduce our guest tonight. And I'm also going to thank first our Wrigley Lecture crew, Laura and Jenny, [? Lindi ?] and Meredith, and the others who were helping to record this session.

I'm just going to give a short intro-- about a minute and a half-- about Enrique's impact on transportation planning. His impact goes far beyond just that. He's, of course, well-known for being the mayor of Bogota, Colombia, between 1998 and 2001.

His impact on that city, of seven million, created an example which took the world by storm. His innovation was simply asking questions like, how do we want to live? And those aren't issues, like measuring CO2 or travel or anything like that. Besides asking simple questions, he provided bold and simple solutions.

He new that a well-designed bus system, giving buses dedicated lanes, called "bus rapid transit," would carry as many people as light rail at a much lower cost. It did. He knew that there was pent-up demand for cycling. And with the proper infrastructure, demand would follow. It did.

He implemented these solutions at unprecedented scales in one of the densest cities in the Western hemisphere. His example had big impacts. Of the roughly 4,000 kilometers of BRT systems in the world today-- the planning approach has really been around for about 50 years-- 3/4 of them have been implemented since the Bogota opening in 2000.

In fact, the US Federal Transit Administration went down to Bogota to study these innovations that were being developed in the so-called "developing world." And now, we have systems in the US from Boston to Los Angeles.

Even here, in Tempe, we have our own Rural Road, BRT system to thank Enrique for.

On a personal note, 10 years ago, I had the pleasure of introducing Enrique to a similar audience in Brazil. Of course, the aim was then, as it is today, for some of his message to have an impact. So Enrique, maybe we'll invite you back in 10 years to see how we're doing.

Enrique has a bachelors degree in history and economics, a masters in management, a doctorate in public administration. He's been a visiting scholar at NYU. He is currently the president of the board of directors of the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy.

He's won too numerous of awards to mention for his various initiatives. But in 2009, with the Dalai Lama and 48 others, he was named Utne Reader's "50 Visionaries Who are Changing the World." Enrique Penalosa.


Enrique Penalosa: Thank you very much, Aaron, for your exaggerated presentation. I am very thankful to you for this invitation and to all of you. And I'm very happy to be here, at Arizona State, and sharing with you some ideas. So we are going to just-- I hope to get you to be in radical disagreement with at least a few of the things I say.

First, I'd like to put this into context for the United States. Whatever happens in the United States has profound impact all over the world, from jeans, to iPods, to music. So I think the Americans have a special responsibility towards the world. If they can do something that will make the world more sustainable, this will have tremendous impact in the rest of the world.

Unfortunately, so far, the United States is a leader in many, many areas, science, university, academics, but one where it really is not is in the urban structure. That's one where, on the contrary, it tends to be a bad example. And not because any reason different than that the fact that the United States was the most successful society in the 20th century.

So others would have loved to do the same, to do these same suburbs, car-based suburbs. Except they could not, because they didn't have the economic success. But now, there will be 2.7 billion more people in the world's cities over the next 38 years.

Is this working, this microphone?

No? There will be 2.7 billion more people in the world's cities. Of course, in India and China and all that, we know it's going to be very big. What is maybe not so clear is that, in the US, this will be similar as well.

And I want to show you something. It will increase, according to the United States Census Bureau, from 322 million today to 438 million in 2050. But now, we have 2.58 persons per household in the United States. Let's assume this is going down, the size of houses in the United States. We will have like in Germany, 2.2 persons per households in 40 years, which is nothing very radical.

So if those two things happen, you will need, in the United States, 74.3 million new homes in the next 38 years. We'll need 74 million new homes in the United States. That means that, over the next 38 years, the United States needs to build more homes than all home's existing today in the United Kingdom, France, and Canada added together.

So this is not a China challenge. It's an American challenge. So the question is, how are those cities going to be built and where? And this is a little bit where I'd like to get today.

Now, when we talk about transport, can we propose a transport system without knowing what kind of city we want? I don't think so. Because, often, I am invited to work on transport in many cities. But the first thing I tell you, what kind of city you want? Because it's very different, if what you have in mind is something like Houston or Phoenix, then if what you have in mind is more something like Amsterdam or Copenhagen.

So what do you want? But even before we know what kind of city we want, we really have to know how do we want to live? Because a city is only a means to a way of life. A city is a means to a way of life. So when we are a designing a city, what we really are designing is a way of life.

What kind of life will make us happier? That is the issue. Now, there are some very basic principles of equality. I think equality is fundamental. And I'm not going to go into the details. But clearly, some people thought, after communist collapse, that we could forget about equality.

However, I think this is wrong. We have been seeking equality since more than 2,000 years, in Greece, Rome, the Judeo-Christian revolution, for the last 300 years. Millions and millions of people died in the American Revolution, to the Soviet Revolution.

So I don't think we can forget about equality. But clearly, we cannot have income equality with a market economy. So what kind of equality can we hope for?

I would propose that we can have two kinds of equality-- first, equality of quality of life, at least for children. Even the most radical Tea Party-ruled society could have equality of quality of life for children or should be able to.

And the second one, the first article of all constitutions, all democratic constitutions, says, all citizens are equal before the law. This is not just poetry. If all citizens are equal before the law, for example, a bus with 80 passengers has a right to 80 times more road space than a car with 1.


Somebody on a bicycle has the same right to road space as somebody in a car. And also, there is a consequence of this principle, which is explicit in some constitutions, implicit in all, which is that public good prevails over private interest.

Democracy is not just the fact that people vote. You could have people voting and not have democracy. Democracy means that the constitution is obeyed, that principles, such as these we're talking about, are obeyed.

We have sometimes injustice before our noses. And we don't see it. For example, we think, today, that what happened in the French Revolution was very obvious, that [? this ?] [? too ?] had changed. It was not so obvious.

Because 1,000 years had gone by, and it had not changed.

But let's not go back so far as the French Revolution. 70 years ago, African Americans had to give their seats in buses to white people, here, in the United States. 70 years ago, women could not vote for president in the United States.

It was not fascists who thought women should not vote. It was your grandparents, your great grandparents. They thought it was normal that women should not vote. So sometimes inequality, injustice is before our noses, and we do not see it.

And what do I mean by this? For example, I think that a traffic jam road, without exclusive lanes for buses, is a flagrant symbol of injustice and inequality and technical stupidity. It does not take a PhD from Arizona State University. A committee of 12-year-old children would realize, in 20 minutes, that the most efficient way to use scarce road space is with exclusive lanes for buses.

But moreover, if public good prevails over private interest, for example, clearly, there should not be private waterfronts. Actually, the United States defends mostly open ocean waterfronts as public. But there are, for example, thousands of miles of Long Island Sound waterfront, which, if they were public, with public, pedestrian infrastructure, clearly, public good would improve. Millions and millions of people would be much happier.

So this society is far from being finished. It is not so perfect, even in democratic terms. But we have, sometimes, injustices, that, again, today, the same way as we think today is normal, that there should be a private waterfront, where all people are not allowed, they are not allowed access, in the same way, 80 years ago, people thought it was normal that women should not vote.

So injustice and non-democratic realities are before our noses. We are so used to them, that we think this is normal. But I think they will change. And I hope they will change soon.

I like this image of planet Earth, because then we realize how our planet really is a spaceship, a self-sufficient spaceship, and we are so together, close together. We all are humans, until we come down to Earth, and then we see some rules, such as the ones that were enacted in Arizona, recently, against immigrants, to come into the United States or so.

So clearly, then, it's not really-- we don't share Earth, all together, as equals, you know? Especially, we Colombians, we have a lot of trouble to get visas to most countries in the world. So in fact, out of this whole universe, out of this whole planet, we only have a right to be inside our country's borders.

Other countries may give us permission to go to their countries, but we only have a right to be in our countries. But even in our country, we come inside our country, and then we realize, almost everything is private property. So we cannot enter it. You enter private property, and you may even get killed.

You go into your city, and you enter some other people's apartment or something, and you may get shot. It's not a minor risk. You come out to the street, and then you'll get killed by cars.

So why all this long story? Just to emphasize that, out of the whole universe, out of the whole planet, the only place to which we have access, to which we have rightful access is public, pedestrian spaces in our city. Public, pedestrian space in out city is the only piece of the planet to which we have access. Maybe a few more parts, here and there, but that's basically it.

So it's a very important part of the planet. And that's basically the most important part of any city. But we will see soon that, actually, most cities give more space to park cars than to pedestrian space.

Now, what is a good city, then? I love a definition by Jan Gehl, a wonderful Danish urbanist. He says that, " a good city is one where people like to be out in public space." Not in shopping malls-- no, they won't want to stay at home watching TV. They like to be out, watching other people, in plazas, in parks.

A good city is where rich and poor meet as equals, in parks, in public transport. So we could survive inside an apartment, the same way a bird survives inside a cage. But we suppose the bird would be happier in a cage the size of this auditorium and happier, yet, flying free.

In the same way, maybe we are happier in a 10-meter wide sidewalk than in a 2-meter wide sidewalk. But here we come into something that is very interesting about cities. Cities are more architecture than engineering. Cities are more art.

See, this ceiling could be at this height, you know, maybe four meters high. And we could be meeting here. And functionally, it would work. But we would feel something different in our heart, in our soul. We would feel different.

Feeling is not irrelevant.

In the same way, I cannot prove that it's better to have a 10-meter white sidewalk than to have a 2-meter wide sidewalk. I cannot prove, mathematically. This is not an engineering test. They will not teach you in an engineering course. This is something you will feel.

So much about cities is subjective. And unfortunately or fortunately, society must make, through government, many decisions. I am very happy that some of the planners from the city are here.

But for example, heights of buildings, 30-story high or 2-story high, there is no mathematical rules for this to be decided or not. And yet, we need to have this rule. We cannot let the private sector do whatever they want in their development, to make the sidewalk as big as they want, when they do a building, or to the height-- so. So a public space, public space.

We need also, in a good city, to have contact with nature, with water, with trees. A good city is good for vulnerable citizens. I would say that a good city is one that is good for children, for the elderly, for the handicapped, for the poor. If its good for them, it will tend to be good for everybody else.

Almost, I would say, that children and the elderly, by themselves, in public, pedestrian space, is almost an indicator species for a good city. The same way that, if we find water in a mountain, and we find trout, trout are indicator species that the water is clean. It has enough oxygen.

So if a city's really good, you will find a lot of children in the street, by themselves, not with their parents. This wonderful city, like in the Netherlands, Groningen.

Now, cars have two kinds of problems. One is quality of life. Cars kill people. It's not a minor problem, you know? Tens of thousands of people are killed by cars every year. But the other one is simply technical. As cities are growing, you can make all the room you want, and, simply, it's not possible to solve mobility with cars, as we will see, especially in the giant, developing country cities.

There is a conflict. We have to we can design a city that is friendly to people, or a city that is friendly to cars. But you cannot do one that is both. This is simply, there are conflicts. How do you distribute this space?

I mean there's cars above, cars below. They were very nice to leave some space for people there. High velocity roas-- roads are like fences in a field, in a pasture. You cannot go across. So the more roads that you cannot cross, your freedom is restricted. You have no noise.

Clearly, it's less humane. It would be much nicer, if this road was for human beings, if this road was just two lanes. And much nicer if it was pedestrian. I mean, maybe you need the road. But the fact is that it has a significant cost in human quality of life.

If we tell a three-year-old child, anywhere in the world today, watch out, a car, the child will jump in fright. And with a good reason, because there are tens of thousands of children who are killed by cars, every year, in the world.

But the amazing thing is not that this happens. The amazing thing is that we think this is normal, that this is progress, that is the way life is.

This was not our always like this. We have had cities for about 5,000 years. And for 5,000 years-- I mean, maybe not on a bicycle, like in this old, Chinese city-- any child could go out without any fear of getting killed. It's only in the last 80 years that we have created human environments where people have to be afraid of dying. It's not a minor threat.

This is progress? After 5,000 years, that's the best we can do, some horrible streets? So we come out of the building, and then we find this street, right in front, where the children can get killed or we, also, if we are not careful.

This is normal? Noisy, dangerous, this is the wonderful human environment we have created after 5,000 years of history?

This is Tokyo in the Middle Ages. A child could walk, without any fears, any blocks, without any fear. Then modern, for example, in Italy, let's see. A very advanced society. Sometimes we tend to think that before cars, we lived in caves. No.

200 years before cars were invented, Beethoven had composed his music. There was science. There was art. It was not like, before cars, people lived in like-- you know? This is Berlin, for example, people could walk. Paris, almost 1900, a very sophisticated city, it was not exactly a cave, you know? This is New York, 1905.

I think the 20th century will be remembered as a wrong detour in urban history. I hope that in 2200, people will say, how could people in 2013 live? It was such a horrible place. The same way we think today of London, 1800, as a terrible place to live. Yet, in 1800, London was the most admired city in the world, the most imitated city in the world. So this is what we have created, this human habitat.

Now, we have these urbanists, who are called the new urbanists, whom I respect very much, because they have done wonderful work. But basically, I think, in the United States, many urban experts have idealized the first half of the 20th century city.

It was so wonderful. The neighbors knew each other. The shops were close by, mixed use, mixed in, so wonderful. But I mean, if they were so wonderful, why did everybody leave as soon as they could when they had cars? I mean, as soon as they could, they left for the suburbs. So maybe it was not so wonderful.

They were escaping from cars. They were escaping. And we'll see about this a little later. Look, this is a wonderful book, by Peter Norton. He says, before 1920, American pedestrians crossed streets wherever they wished, walked in them, and let their children play in them. In 1914, the Chamber of Commerce, in Rome, New York, had to ask pedestrians not to visit in the street and not to manicure your nails on the streetcar tracks, with limited success.

So the city of the first half of the 20th century was fine before cars appeared. In fact, in the same book, he says, there were no Americans killed by cars in 1900. But in the 1920s, motor vehicle accidents in the United States killed more than 200,000 people-- almost the same as Americans killed in the Second World War, in 10 years, when 20 years before not one single person had been killed by cars.

So something radical changed. But we should have changed completely the way we did cities. As soon as these killing machines appeared, we should have made cities where one street was for cars, the next only for pedestrians, or something different. But no, we just made bigger streets, bigger roads, highways. And we continue the same as if nothing had changed. And everything has changed.

Streets were the playgrounds for most cities' children. But in the 1920s, street games were becoming a high-stakes gamble. In 1925, in the United States, cars and trucks kill about 7,000 children. And that was one third of the death toll. So something changed when cars appeared.

But we seem to have assumed that nothing changed. We just made the same kind of cities, houses against the street. And those Americans went to suburbs to escape cars.

At the beginning of the century-- if you go to all the great cities--


Does that sound like what I'm saying?

--any city before cars, the wealthiest people had the homes in the main arteries. I am sure, if Phoenix existed in 1920, as a big city, as it did, that the rich people had their homes in the main street. It was the same in Bogota, in Ahmadabad in India, in Paris, everywhere.

As soon as cars appeared, the rich go as far as they can, to the farthest out suburb or whatever. So this is like in Manhattan, the main houses of the billionaires were in the main streets. And people, they like to show before cars.

Also, apartments in the first floor were the most expensive ones, and not just because there were no elevators, because elevators have existed for about 60 years already. But soon as cars appeared, then the most expensive apartments became the penthouse, as far from the street as possible. 20 stories high is more expensive.

And even in suburbs, you see the cul-de-sac. And when you have a cul-de-sac, a closed street, the house that is furthest from the entrance of the cul-de-sac is the most expensive. That is the most preferred lot, because, even though there's minimal traffic, it's the one that has the least traffic, the least risk of children getting killed by cars. So it's clearly the way things change.

But cars destroyed the city, but, also, cars made it possible to leave the city. Because once people have cars, they could go to the suburbs and go to a place they liked better. And clearly, of course, we began to make cities for cars and highways. And we made a mess.

By the end of the last century, we realized we had made a. Mess and we began to correct it. Especially in Europe, we began to make streets for pedestrians all over the place. There is not one, single European city or town which does not have a whole network of pedestrian streets only.

This is a fantastic one in San Sebastian in Spain and Santiago in Chile. And even in New York-- this is two years ago-- they took half the space from Broadway to give it to pedestrians and bicycles. And part of it was-- this is not for a Sunday celebration. They closed, totally, Broadway altogether.

This is the tendency all over the world. When we talk about transport policy to a secretary of transport in an advanced city-- translates-- how to reduce car use? In the developing countries, still the opposite, how to solve traffic jams?

I heard this morning something very shocking. And here, it seemed they talked like a developing world city, because they said they wanted to make a bigger I-17. This is a typical developing world talk, you know? Not to see how you can reduce car use, but, on the contrary, how can you make more room for cars?

Now, quality sidewalks are the most important element of a democratic city's infrastructure. This is typical of the developing world. This clearly shows that this is first class citizens, and this is third-class citizens.

Sidewalks, besides, it's an integral part of public transport. If we want people to use public transport, we have to make nice sidewalks for people to walk to the bus station or wherever.

But this is a funny picture. But this is all over. The developing world is like this. You don't have to seek very hard. This is almost accurate. What makes a difference between advanced and backward cities is not subways or highways. It is quality sidewalks.

See, they made this horrible flyover-- useless, by the way. And then they forget to make a sidewalk for people. This is in Indian, in Chennai. But it could be anywhere. This is typical. Not even children are more important than cars. China is a disaster in most of the cities.

American suburbs tend to think it's very elegant not to have sidewalks. It's fancy, and it looks rural, you know? It's funny, because, even in Canada, where they have a lot of suburbs, for example, they always have sidewalks.

This is Colombia, typical, a mess, you know, Bogota. And then I was almost impeached. I had my hair black before these battles. So people told me, mayor, you're so stubborn. Because there is enough space for cars to park as well as for people to walk by.

So we had to tell people, look, we tend to think that sidewalks are relatives of streets, because they live next to each other. However, sidewalks are different from streets. They are not for getting from one place to another. They can be useful for that. But sidewalks are for talking, for playing, for doing business, for kissing.

Sidewalks, really, are much closer relatives of parks or plazas than they are of streets. And to say that in a sidewalk, there is enough space to park cars as well as for people to walk by, it's equivalent to saying that you could turn the main park or the main plaza of a city into an open-air parking lot, so long as you leave enough space between cars for people to walk by.

See, these are very subjective issues. But this is not something that we are talking about Colombia. We are talking about New York or Phoenix. We could take the cars that are parked on the curbside and get rid of this parking, make the sidewalk bigger.

Why not? Who decided that we should give this space to cars? Did anybody vote? We'll go into that later. This is just to show you a small-- this is politics.

This is a Gallup poll, when I was mayor, when I arrived. See, before I was mayor, this is the blue. The blue is, do you approve or disapprove of Mayor Penalosa? Here, 77% disapprove, 18% approve. I was public enemy number one. Happily, by the end of my term, 70% of the people-- I had the highest positive image any mayor had in Bogota. But it's a fight. It's difficult, what I'm trying to say, also, to politicians and to societies. It's difficult to make change, especially when you're trying to make change to create more equality, even if people like it afterwards.

So we make sidewalks. We had big sidewalks, big bike-ways. Ideally, sidewalks should continue, at grade, at intersections. So it's clear that it's cars that are entering the pedestrian space and not vice versa, that the city belongs to people not to cars.

Like in Paris, here-- ideally, any sidewalk in the planet should be at least as big, that three wheelchairs, one next to each other, could go easily, anywhere, without any obstacles.

I think I'm going to show you now-- this is very important, what I'm going to show. By the way, Colombia, we are a very poor society. If we have a very good growth rate, maybe, in 100 years, we'll have the income per capita the United States has. But still, there are some interesting examples.

Bogota is a large city, eight million city, twice Phoenix. And this is what I think should be in the future, some bicycle highway, Porvenir Promenade. This is what I think the future American city may have. I'll show you.

We did about a 20 mile bicycle highway through some of these areas, the very poor areas, where the city was growing. See, even underground cables, fence. Initially, it was like this, then the city grew around it.

And this is something that completely transforms life. Look, the city's only consolidating there. It's not yet finished. But imagine what you can do with 20 miles, going through a very dense city.

Phoenix has about 20 inhabitants for hectare. Bogota has 215 inhabitants per hectare. It's one of the highest density cities in the world. And to have something like this is very impressive. So you can change life.

When we had these illegal neighborhoods, we first made the pedestrian park. Later, we'll pave the streets for cars but, first, pedestrians. See here, you see the parks, the pedestrians, the bicycles. And we paved these streets for cars later.

Of course, most people in this neighborhood don't have cars. I would love to pave the street for cars, too. But I want for people to feel important, respected, not because they have a car, but because they have a national identity in their pocket. Because they are a human being.

I would say that any infrastructure in a city should reflect that human beings are sacred, anything that you do in a city. The way to measure a new building or a new road or anything you do is, does it make the space around it more pleasant to be in, to walk in, to play in? That is the way.

If you have a new building, the discussion is not whether the building is 20-stories high or 2-stories high. I think this is a very relevant discussion. We'll go into this. Much more important is, does it improve, does it make more pleasant the space around it, more attractive?

This is much more important than whether it has 20 or 30-stories high or not. It's not irrelevant. So this is Porvenir Promenade. See, these streets, no pavement. All of them had running water. We have great schools that we put everything, parks, no pavement.

First, the pedestrian highway here. How would your quality of life improve-- even in a suburb, where probably many of you live-- if you would have a 50-mile pedestrian or bicycle highway a few blocks from your home, to go on bicycle or just to sit there and read the paper and watch people go by? It would be fantastic.

How about a city with hundreds or thousands of miles of this infrastructure, like this in Germany? And it's so easy to do. If we are going to do totally new cities in the US-- as I mentioned, 70 million new homes-- we could do something completely different. Because clearly, we're not going to build everything just around what we have now.

Like this is in Berlin, these kind of bicycle highways in Europe. The new American city could be crisscrossed by hundreds and even thousands of miles of pedestrian and bicycle only promenades, highways and greenways. These kind of things, it would be very easy to do. It would change life. And it would be a pleasure to ride bicycles there.

Now, another one that we did, the Japanese Cooperation Agency proposed an eight-lane highway. And then we did 35 kilometers, like 25 miles, another greenway-- we won't have time to go into the details-- another one of these. So in total, we did about 70 miles of this in 3 years.

How about taking one of two full lanes away from a Phoenix arterial road in order to turn it into a true bicycle highway, make a three-lane promenade? I mean, this is not in Phoenix, but it's another American city. Maybe there is something similar here.

Bicycles are a serious matter. And they need serious investment in infrastructure, like they do in the Netherlands. This is not that. No, it's parking.

And it's important to remember that Denmark, or the Netherlands, have a higher income per capita than the United States. They do not use bicycles because they are poor. They are richer than the United States.

And the weather is horrible. It's not like Phoenix. And still, 40% of the people are using bicycles. You know, Copenhagen? Why do people use bicycles? Why are bicycles more used in the Netherlands or Denmark than in Italy or Spain, where the weather is better? Why?

I would propose that is because these are societies which are much more egalitarian. A rich person in Spain would never be caught dead on a bicycle. Instead, a billionaire in the Netherlands couldn't care less. He goes in on old bicycle and in a bus.

So I would say these cities reflect the values of a society, but, at the same time, they construct values. If we create bicycle-ways, they construct a more egalitarian society. See, what I'm trying to say? The infrastructure of a city reflects the values of a society. But it also constructs the values. We could go into this a long time. But we don't have time.

Everybody goes to university by bicycle. I suppose it's the same here in Arizona. And I see many young people on bicycles. In the future, maybe even more, like this, in the Netherlands. This is a university town and the train station in Groningen, in the Netherlands. It's a movie, everybody goes to.

I would say like a bay with sailboats. Even if you're not in one, this bay is more beautiful if their are sailboats. So a city with bicycles is also more beautiful, is more sexy, is more fun. See, for example, you can even flirt on a bicycle. She doesn't pay attention, but this is life. It happens.

So Bogota, more Bogota, more bike-ways in Bogota-- In developing countries, to be able to ride a bicycle instead of paying for public transport, it will save you, a low-income person, between 15% and 40% of your income. It's huge social policy. It's extremely powerful.

This is the bike-ways within Bogota and a library we built, by the way. This is a right. I would say a protected bicycle-way is a symbol that shows that a citizen on a $30 bicycle is equally important to one on a $30,000 car. It constructs democracy and sustainability and all that, too. So he feels very important on his bicycle, for example.

So environmental impact stories usually are required to building new roads. We have to require human impact stores, too. We have to protect lizards, fine. But we have to protect children and people as well. And we don't.

This is a road financed by the World Bank in India. It has environmental impact studies, a lot of money in environmental studies. But they forget there are more pedestrians than bicycles, than cars. Still, they don't do any infrastructure for pedestrians or bicycles.

This is typical all over the developing world. It's not like you have to hunt very hard for this. This is at least what you should have on every road. This is in Columbia but very few of these.

While highways go the shortest way from A to B, bicyclists are forced to go all around. Engineers tend to assume that bicyclists are going for the fun of it, that they are never in a hurry. So we have to have the same.

If we have a highway that's straight from A to B, we also have to have-- any urban highway, with due respect-- ideally, there should not be urban highways-- but if we have, we should have bike-ways, bus-ways, and great pedestrian spaces alongside them.

This is democracy. This is not engineering. Are bike-ways a cute architectural feature or are they a right? Today, we assume that a sidewalk is a right. I am sure that here, in Phoenix, in an advanced city, like Phoenix, if somebody gets hit by a car in a place where there is not a sidewalk, this person will sue the government and will get a lot of money from Phoenix government, millions of dollars, probably, because he has a right to have a sidewalk.

Now, why not also a bike-way? The only possible means of individual mobility for many low-income people or for a child, for a 12- or 14-year-old child, is bike-ways. So I don't think this is just a cute feature. it's a right, in every street-- and protected bike-ways, not just painted lanes.

Again, why not give pedestrians and bicyclists the space taken today by curbside parking? And this is not a theoretical discussion. In New York, they have had this discussion. I think, I would disagree, respectfully, with the United States assumption that neighbors have more right to public space than people who live far away.

I think this is not a democratic assumption at all. For example, somebody may live in a $30 million apartment in front of Central Park. And a child in the furthest neighborhood, in the Bronx, has the same right to Central Park as the person who lives right in front of it. But unfortunately, judges in the United States very often assume that the neighbors can organize and decide whether there is a bike-way or not in front of their homes.

We have to do what is best for the city as a whole not for the neighbors. And I don't think the neighbors have any more right to the public space around them than do citizens in the other side of the city. But this is an interesting discussion, philosophical.

It's important to remember, also, when you get rid of this parking, people will tell the mayor, now, where will I park? And then the mayor can tell-- constitutions have many pages of rights, pages and pages. But I still have not yet found any constitution where parking is a constitutional right.

So the mayor can tell the person, I mean, you asked me where you should park? It is the same as if you asked me where you should keep your food or your clothes. I don't care. Keep it wherever you want. The city has no obligation.

I'm saying, road space-- and we will talk about it-- belongs to all citizens. It does not belong more to citizens with cars than to those without cars. It does not belong more to adults than to children. It belongs the same to every human being in a city.

So when we distribute road space, we will have to think about that it belongs to everybody not to people with cars. And we'll go into that later.

After assuming the political cost for making a bike-way, like, here, in Phoenix, why don't you make a physically protected one, just not a painted thing where cars park and all this? You may have one million cars respecting the bicycle lane that is painted. But what if one doesn't respect it and kills you or kills your children?

So I think a bike-way that is not safe for an 8-year-old child or a 10-year-old child is not a bike-way. This is a pre-bike-way, perhaps. I think this is crazy, these painted bike lanes.

We had, in Bogota, an interesting experiment. We closed 120 kilometers, about 90 miles, of main arteries every Sunday. And we get like a million and a half people going out to ride bicycles. It's a very beautiful ritual of people re-conquering the city.

We even have something else. We had a referendum and asked people to vote whether they wanted a car-free day, no cars, one day a year. And people approved. So the first Thursday of every February, the city works without cars, an eight million inhabitant city. And everything works fine. Everybody uses public transport. It's an interesting experiment, which proves that a different life is possible.

Now, transport, let's go quickly, because transport is a peculiar problem. It can get worse as society gets richer. It's different. I mean, if society gets richer in India, they will have better health, they will have better education, but traffic jams will be worse. Clearly, it's a non-sustainable system.

In the United, States every American city, despite these giant highways, traffic jams have been getting worse for the last 40 years. All stories show the same. Clearly, big highways do not solve traffic jams. And maybe, on the contrary, they create them.

Why don't highways solve traffic jams? Because what creates traffic is not just the number of cars. This is very important. What creates traffic-- at least as important as the number of cars or even more-- is the number of trips and the length of trips.

So if you make bigger roads, people will tend to go farther, to live farther, to work farther, and to make more trips. So it will never work. Trying to solve traffic jams by making bigger roads is like trying to put out a fire with gasoline. So this is traffic jam highways all over in Shanghai or in Mexico, in Sao Paolo.

So public transport-- why do people use public transport in the richest cities in the world, like Zurich or London? Why do people use public transport in New York? Is it because they love public transport?

Have you been to the New York subway? It doesn't even have electric stairways. If you need an elevator, you will waste half a day finding the elevator to the station. And once you find it, you may discover that somebody else did it before and thought it was a toilet.

You go down in the summer, and it's extremely hot, these stations. It's so hot. It's unpleasant. And it's full of giant rats, you know? Last year, 46 people were killed in the tracks in the New York subway. 46 people were killed, because they were pushed or fell or jumped or whatever. I mean, and then to ride underground, it's not the most pleasant.

Why do people use public transport? Do you know why? It's not because they love the environment. It's because they have to. Anywhere people use public transport, it's because there are severe restrictions to using private cars. Because it's too difficult to park, or it's too slow to use the car or some reason.

So you have to use public transport. It's not because you love it. So you have to have carrot and the stick. You have to have great public transport, as good as possible. But you also want to restrict car use, more and more and more.

Mobility and traffic jams-- it's very important to understand this. Public transport will solve mobility, light rail or subways or BRT will solve mobility. But it will not solve traffic jams. You can have a subway under every city. London has more than 1,200 miles of subway and suburban rail. And still, they have to charge for car use, because there were too many traffic jams.

So the only way to solve traffic jams is restricting car use, restricting it with congestion charges, such as in London, increased cost of use in cars. I mean, ideally, if cars create so many problems, you should charge more for car use and subsidize more public transport.

The most obvious charge to car use is to have much higher gasoline taxes. I know this is sinful in the US. But this is very rational. It's obvious. You should charge more to car use and subsidize public transport.

But the most obvious way to restrict car use is to restrict parking and not just parking in public streets. In London, in central London, for the last 40 years, you have not been allowed to do parking in the main buildings. You see all these fancy buildings in central London. None of them have parking, all these offices buildings. Everybody has to go by public transport.

Now, I'll go quickly. The only economic possibility to reach all sectors of cities with transit is BRT, buses in exclusive lanes. Trams are very nice. They are very beautiful. But the tram here costs $70 million per mile. And this is way too expensive. But moreover, buses do more.

In 1940, every city, with more than 100,000 inhabitants, had trams-- every city, Bogota, of course. I'm sure Phoenix-- every city in 1940. And then what happened? Buses appeared and trams disappeared in a matter of 10 or 15 years. And it was not because this legend, this story that General Motors bought a few tram systems and scrapped them, no.

It's because trams had a very bad image of be systems for the poor. So now buses are the same. Buses have a bad image. Buses are for Colombians, for Mexicans, for African Americans. And if we want to attract yuppies, BMW driving yuppies, into public transport, so we have to put trams.

Well, it's nice. It's cute. But the problem is that is very expensive. You are never going to be able to go very far if you use trams. Buses do more. Subways are wonderful, also, great. Who could say subways are bad? But first, we should give democratically.

Why put public transport users under ground? Why don't we give them exclusive lanes for buses in the streets? We should put cars underground but not public transport. I mean, after we put public transport in the roads and still it's not enough, let's put them underground. But at least, first, we give them the road space.

This is the Washington subway. And the stairway was broken. So you have to walk all the way up there. Why do you have to put public transport-- and this, of course, the Washington, it's a nuclear bomb refuge and all these things. It's strange.

It's much nicer to be above ground, like this BRT in Cali, Colombia. It's nice. You get to see the city, the trees, the light. It's more pleasant. Or in a tram, it's nice. Guangzhou's BRT, for example, in China-- it's a 12 million inhabitant city-- is moving more passengers our direction than all subway lines in China except for Beijing number two.

These buses have many advantages over subways. For example, before they enter this, they go into the regular, through the neighborhoods. They get people near where they leave. And they can also leave this. So it's like a subway that could go around the neighborhoods and enter the trunkway. And one thing, in the trunkway, they are as fast as a subway, basically.

We have many-- we can go if we have time.

Bogota TransMilenio moves 47,000 passengers our direction. The highest capacity, the tram in the United States that is moving the most passengers our direction, is moving about 3,000. So with all due respect, it's almost a toy next to the BRT. It's less. This TransMilenio moves more than 10 times.

And of course, again, I love trams. They are beautiful. I think it's perfect. You do one. You do two. You do three. But if you really want to go all over the city, you will also do something lower cost. And it can do beautiful.

This is Bogota, of course, the horrible traffic jams. But on the other hand, this is a beautiful symbol. By the way, I'd like to say, before I am mistaken, Bogota is a mess. I don't want you to think Bogota-- I'm not going here to say Bogota is an example of anything. It's a mess.

We just did two or three examples, experiments, which are interesting, that's all. And I have to tell you about them, because, otherwise, they will not invite me here.

Buses can support private investment. This is a very nice system they did in Cleveland, Ohio. Very nice BRTs, could work for you, the planners of Phoenix to go and look at this. Or this is the one in Denver.

Now, I don't like malls very much. But all new malls-- about 10 malls-- in Bogota have been done in the BRT line. The corridor in BRT increases, tremendously, land prices. See, they've even put signs. If you buy here, then you will get the increase in value, either increase because of the TransMilenio. Well, that's what it says, that sign.

Here, is the most, the biggest company in construction, the biggest developer in Bogota. This is the way. They buy two pages in the magazines, that they put the map of the BRT. And they locate their projects near the BRT, because their studies show that, by far, the most important attraction for anybody to buy an apartment is to be near the TransMilenio trunkways.

So that's exactly the same thing as the subway or the tram does, if it's well done, with great architecture and all of this. And of course, don't misunderstand me. I love trams. They're beautiful. And they're great. And I congratulate you with the tram you have.

But unfortunately, it's expensive. And if you really want to go to many more places in the city, you may complement it with bus systems.

They say that trams will stimulate investment, spur investment. Well, this in Portland. And this is like a 15-year-old tramway. And still, empty parking lots next to the tram. Again, empty parking lots next to the tram in Portland. So the development has not totally been exactly booming.

Moreover, here we have Salt Lake City, one of the first cities in the United States that had trams. And it looks like a bombed out city. It's full of parking lots all over the place. So clearly, trams did not stimulate any investment. So maybe was happened in Portland is not just the trams.

But let's go quickly to other things. But basically, I love trams or buses. The issue is that mobility is a political decision. If you are able to take the political decision to give car lanes to public transport, you will solve the problem. Of course, it takes a little more than that, but that's basically it.

Let's go quickly. I could prove to you that bus systems can be even faster than a subway. But, for example, for some reason, when two lines cross in a subway, you have to get out of the subway, walk, and wait for the next train to come by. So it takes a lot of time.

Also, if you need to move 10,000 passengers our direction, you may need four trains or 100 buses. So the frequency is much higher. The waiting time is much less in a bus system. Stations are much closer to each other in bus systems than in subways. So the walking time is shorter.

Anyway, let's go quickly. This is in Brisbane, in Australia, a very nice BRT system, too. Let's go quick. Buses-- we already talked about this. Buses on exclusive lanes-- highways. Highways should have exclusive lanes for buses, like this one in Istanbul.

Now, road space is a city's most valuable resource. Here, in Phoenix, you could find oil or diamonds on the ground, and it's not as valuable as road space. So how should we distribute road space between pedestrians, public transport, and private cars, and bicycles?

This is London, for example. See, more space for pedestrians. This is a political decision. I am not telling you how you should distribute it. it's your political decision. All I am trying to say, there is nothing legal or technical about it. This is a political decision, how you distribute this resource that belongs to all society.

Very narrow streets in Paris, for example, and still, I can assure you, this real estate, here, is one of the most expensive in the planet. So it's not exactly that you need big growth to have successful cities. Now, let's go quickly.

We don't have time to go quickly.

These typical suburbs-- low cost, high-frequency public transport. We cannot have low cost, high-frequency public transport here. This is a picture I took from the plane on landing in Houston. How can you have a train or a bus that goes very quickly, every two or every three or every five minutes, right here? Through where? I mean people who have to walk-- you know?

Low density, of course, means high global warming. You are all experts in the problems with suburbs, of course, but we must remember, also, that suburbs are especially boring. There is nobody in the streets. I mean any 14-year-olds-- you see the people, when they get the car, here, in the United States.

With high density, everything works, bicycles, pedestrians, light rail, subways, buses. Everything works well. So now, what will a desirable density be? What is a good density? What is high enough?

I would propose something very simple. If you have open air parking lots, it means that the land prices are too low. You can afford to waste your land parking cars there. So you will have the right density when you cannot afford to have open air parking lots any longer. That's when you reach a correct density. If you are able to afford this, clearly, land is too cheap, density is too low.

Now, the United States' greatest urban environmental challenge for the 21st century is to create denser cities, which will offer, what people like in suburbs, green and safe spaces to turn the inner suburbs--

But we don't want just density. Most Americans would not want this. I don't think people in Phoenix would like to live like this. This is Hong Kong. So we think suburbs are not good. But clearly, we don't like to live in Manhattan, either.

So where? What kind of city? How are we going to build the 70 million new homes that we want or that we need? The new density cannot be about the tall towers surrounded by narrow sidewalks. It has to be a pedestrian's heaven, a paradise for children and the elderly.

The buildings, which follow, may be fine. This is the new yuppie buildings in American cities, which everywhere you have a few. And they are hailed as a great success. And of course, they are, but this is Portland. I mean, do you think this is where-- I mean this is paradise? This is the great density downtown. So a child-- assuming you have a 10-year-old child. He comes out and then maybe this little sidewalk there, you know?

Is this the paradise that we want for the future American city, for the next 4,000 years? That's it? I don't think so. I'm not so excited. Or even this, like in Manhattan, this is what we want? I mean, Manhattan may be fun for adults and all, but this is not exactly the paradise we want for the future of the United States or the world.

This is Portland, again, you know? This is great yuppies living there, downtown. Maybe a few people will go there, but, clearly, this is not what people will be happy with. I mean, this is not what will replace the suburbs, it doesn't seem to me.

Buildings in the new American city could be surrounded, at least in one side, by formidable by pedestrian spaces. Children would walk out of homes into pedestrian spaces, into networks, hundreds of miles long, of greenways and bicycle highways.

Like this, this is in Battery Park City, in Manhattan. But this is just an example. Here, the green, in one side, imagine this goes for 50 miles, this greenway. And in the other side, the cars, fine, and then another building, and then another greenway. that You know, things like this.

Is it possible to provide what people seek in these suburbs in much higher densities? This is in Toronto, for example-- in Vancouver. Here, again, a very long greenway. In the other side are the cars.

The new density cannot be just for adults, like Manhattan. It should be for happy children, who will ride bicycles to school, shops, friends' homes, through greenways, hundreds of miles long. Like this is a greenway through some

Dutch city, dozens of kilometers long.

Every other street could be pedestrian or bicycle only. This is just an example. I'm not saying this is what should be or not. But imagine a city like this, like Manhattan, one street's only pedestrian and bicycle, one for cars, something like this, very simple.

It's not rocket science. I mean, of course, architects and designers will do something much more intelligent and more creative. But basic is the concept of the new city. This could be hundreds of kilometers of these things.

But Jane Jacobs traumatized Americans. She was brilliant and taught us all. I mean, we all have learned from Jane Jacobs. But on the other hand they said, oh, now, whenever we're going to demolish something, see two neighbors said hello to each other, so this is a vibrant community. We cannot demolish it.

Now, look, we can do cities in two different ways. One is just changing the regulations, allowing houses to become high-rises. And the other one is totally demolish huge areas and redo the city, completely. While in the United States, nothing has been done in the last 50 years, mainly because people are paralyzed by fright of demolishing. Everything is conservation. Everything is vibrant community. Nothing can be done.

In Europe they have done hundreds of projects. One of the most important recent ones was for the London Olympics. They had huge demolitions. And they redid a whole area of the city and very successfully. I was a student, a graduate student in Paris, in the center of Paris. And about 40 hectares around where I live were demolished. And fantastic new projects were done in the center of Paris.

So to redo things-- I mean the fact that some things fail, and Jane Jacobs rightly criticized them, doesn't mean that we can't do anything, anymore, forever. The new American city could also be crisscrossed by hundreds of miles of roads for buses only or trams only, these greenways with buses or trams.

They will make formidable, low cost transit systems, like this in Bogota, only buses and pedestrians. But imagine this for 100 miles. Or in the Netherlands, in Bogota, again, things like this, only trams, only buses and pedestrians, for 100 kilometers.

This is the new American city that I would dream about, things like this, very simple. This is an example. This is an idea for Manhattan. Central Park may be not so wide, but all the way from the northern tip to the southern tip.

Imagine something like this, green along the water, no roads, no highways, no FDRs, parks across, also.

Five minutes and I finish. I am being ordered by Aaron.

Now, some bus rapid transit streets, you know? This is just an idea, of course, that I'm proposing. Where will the American-- now, I've already said how I think the new city could be, the new American city. Now, the question is where? Where will we build this new city?

And I would propose to you, very irreverently, that this should be done, demolishing suburbs, well-located suburbs, and redo them. This is not so simple. Almost 80% of buildings in the planet, high-rise buildings in the planet, have been built before there were houses. So it is not so simple.

Every single high-rise in Manhattan is built before there were houses. Why did people sell those houses? Because it was good business. They made a lot of money selling it. It was great business for them to sell it. So it is not so terrible to propose that we may demolish things and do something different and better.

And here, we are using eminent domain. And I think it should be used for the most important reason, ever, it has been used, for human survival, in order to stem off global warming, to do sustainable, transit-efficient cities.

We have to demolish things like this and completely redo them, demolish completely, redo the streets, redo the whole thing. Maybe it's not so sacred. Of course, we will say-- let's go quickly. I don't have time.

Even in many inner suburbs in the United States, they are completely rundown, derelict. I was, last year, in this, what I'm going to show you, in Birmingham, Alabama. But there are very similar ones in Philadelphia, very similar ones in Baltimore. Completely collapsed and still nothing is done. Everybody's paralyzed by fright to do anything.

This is collapsed. This is crumbling down. And still nothing is done, because, maybe, again, it's a lively, vibrant community. Schools are closed, boarded-up schools. I mean this is two miles away from the most fantastic university, downtown Birmingham, University of Alabama, where very fancy professors come, famous doctors, famous researchers.

Two miles away-- you could demolish hundreds of hectares and redo a whole new city, for the people who live there and for others who would come, mixed community, mixed income, mixed uses, with hundreds of pedestrian street only, bicycle only, so easy.

But nobody dares. There was a fantastic fable or ruling in New London, Connecticut, and many states, including Arizona, rushed to expedite new regulations that would not allow these things to happen again there.

If high density, for the 73 million new homes, to be built in the United States, over the next 38 years, is not achieved in the existing suburbs, where is it to be achieved? Where? Where are we going to build these 73 million? Or actually, we may build traditional buildings on top of these streets, but that would not be very exciting.

We are designing not cities. We are designing the future lives and the future happiness of Americans. So not just derelict suburbs, we could demolish normal, nice, successful suburbs. And they would be a great business.

These people would sell their homes and maybe have enough money to buy three homes like that. No?

Now, two ways of turning suburbs into high-density environments-- simply change regulations, allow buildings, and the other one, large projects and eminent domain. And you could do things like this or better without even cars.

But this is just some nice areas. This is like in Berlin, nice densities, New York, things like this, in Vancouver. It was easy to find these pictures. There are many around the world, nice areas.

For the second way of doing suburbs, where we could do a totally new city, which will be an example to the world, there is no examples yet. Large areas will have to be acquired, demolished, and redone with a radically different model.

Now, when the central city becomes attractive again, there are discussions about which height to permit the buildings. Let us go. Again, as I mentioned, more important than the height of buildings is what happens at the ground floor.

This is a disaster, a famous architect in New York, Frank Gehry. I mean, you want to walk and see that, you know? But of course, he's a star. And I respect him. He has done fantastic things. But this is not a pleasant thing to walk in front of.

This is nice, windows, gardens, people. This is nice. For example, who knows if this building, where these people are, which, by the way, is my son and my wife, are 60-story high or 6-story high or 3-story high? How do you know? Who cares?

What is important is what happens at the ground floor. it's much more important. What happens at the ground floor, like Rockefeller Center in New York or whatever?

Now, I finished.


Thank you.

This presentation is brought to you by Arizona State University's Global Institute of Sustainability for educational and non-commercial use only.