January 14, 2003

World’s Leading Urban Reformer Shares New Way to Build Cities


Contact: Paul Steely White or Lisa Peterson, 212-629-8001

Within three years, former Bogotá Mayor Enrique Peñalosa transformed his city from a congested and dangerous mess, where many citizens did not have access to transportation, into the world’s leading model for sustainable urban design. Now, on the Building a New City tour, Mr. Peñalosa will share this inspirational story and describe how Africa’s leaders can follow “The Bogotá Model” for livable cities.

The two-week tour begins January 15 and will bring Peñalosa to four of Africa’s leading cities: Dakar, Senegal; Cape Town and Pretoria, South Africa; and Accra, Ghana. Traffic congestion, inadequate public transportation, poverty and poor access to jobs and services are increasingly problematic in each city and local leaders have asked for help in replicating Bogotá‘s success.

“The people of Bogotá spent years hating their city,” said Mr. Peñalosa, who is currently a Visiting Scholar at New York University and is writing a book on a new model of development for Third World cities. “Now, the people of Bogotá feel proud and have hope that their lives will continue to improve. This is the story we are bringing to cities across the world.”

Under Mr. Peñalosa’s leadership from 1998-2000, innovative transportation strategies such as a successful busway, bicycle paths and restrictions on private car use were used to equalize all citizens’ access to mobility and began to relieve the traffic congestion and air pollution that was choking Bogotá. His administration also built parks, planted trees and promoted the use of public space.

“In Bogotá, we chose to build a city for people, not for automobiles,” said Mr. Peñalosa. “Cities built for cars’ mobility suffer from congestion and unsafe street conditions and leave many residents with poor access to jobs. Instead of these problems, we gave our citizens enjoyable public spaces and unprecedented mobility.”

Bogotá now boasts:

  • Latin America’s largest network of bicycle ways, 150 miles long (250 km)
  • A world-class Bus Rapid Transit system of dedicated bus lanes called TransMilenio
  • The world’s longest pedestrian-only street, spanning 10.2 miles (17 km); and hundreds of miles of sidewalks, many through the city’s poorest neighborhoods
  • The planet’s biggest Car-Free Day, during which private vehicles are not allowed to enter the entire city of 135 square miles (35,000 hectares)

“Typically, when we judge a city’s success we talk about skyscrapers, superhighways and parking spaces,” said Mr. Peñalosa. “The experience of Bogotá shows that cities can prosper by focusing on a new model for success, one that is centered on the needs and contentment of all the city’s residents ‚ not just those that own a private car.”

The Building a New City tour was organized by the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP), an organization dedicated to improving mobility in developing nations and promoting sustainable transportation policies worldwide. ITDP co-chairs the United Nations Transport Caucus and is based in New York City.

The tour will help officials from Africa’s leading cities build momentum for improving public transit and providing more bicycle and pedestrian corridors. The tour will also enable Mr. Peñalosa to work with local planners and elected officials to devise strategies best suited to each unique urban area.

“Sustainable transport is something we must develop in Senegal,” said Abdoulaye Wade, President of Senegal, who met with Mr. Peñalosa during a trip to New York City in September of 2002. In addition to making transportation a high priority in his inaugural agenda, President Wade is responsible for implementation of the Transports, Energy and Environment sectors for the New Partnership for African Development, a coalition of African Heads of State.

“Accra’s worsening traffic congestion is an issue of great concern to the Ghanaian government,” said Solomon Darko, Mayor of Accra. “We see the development of a bus system as a critical component of an overall sustainable transport strategy that would also include measures to restrain motor vehicle traffic and promote non-motorized transport.”

“Ten years ago, Bogotá suffered as Cape Town does ‚ with heavy traffic congestion, no rail, no formal bus system and no plan to implement changes,” said Former Cape Town Mayor and current City official Frank van der Velde.

“Today Bogotá has a Transport Authority which has brought about a structured bus lane network, cycle ways, pedestrian routes and beautiful public spaces, all resulting in a 40% reduction in car trips, an 80% reduction in accidents and a 50% reduction in pollution. Is this not what we want for this Cape Town?”

Already, ITDP and its local partners in Africa have advanced the planning and construction of bus routes and bicycle networks, brought modern and affordable new bicycles to a wider market and organized transit workshops and bicycle events to improve access to jobs, schools and health care.

“In African cities, traffic congestion and poor alternatives to private motor vehicles preclude access to basic services,” said Paul Steely White, Africa Regional Director for the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy. “Peñalosa brings a Southern success story that resonates with African decision-makers who are facing tough choices about the future of their cities.”

Since the end of his mayoral term in December of 2000, Mr. Peñalosa has traveled to Mexico City; Panama City; Lima, Peru; Guangzhou and Hong Kong in China; Jakarta, Yogyakarta and Surabaya in Indonesia and New Delhi in India. Many of these cities are now pursuing Bogotá-type Bus Rapid Transit systems, bicycle and pedestrian paths and Car-Free Days.

The Institute for Transportation and Development Policy received financial support for the Building a New City tour, as well as its ongoing Livable Communities and Access Africa programs, from the United States Agency for International Development and a variety of private donations.

Building a New City Tour Schedule

Jan. 17 ‚ 21, Dakar, Senegal
Jan. 22 ‚ 23, Cape Town, South Africa
Jan. 24, Pretoria, South Africa
Jan. 25 ‚ 30, Accra, Ghana


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