Enrique Peñalosa: Why buses represent democracy in action

Enrique Peñalosa: Why buses represent democracy in action

Mobility in developing world cities is a very peculiar challenge, because different from health or education or housing, it tends to get worse as societies become richer. Clearly, a unsustainable model. Mobility, as most other developing country problems, more than a matter of money or technology, is a matter of equality, equity. The great inequality in developing countries makes it difficult to see, for example, that in terms of transport, an advanced city is not one where even the poor use cars, but rather one where even the rich use public transport. Or bicycles: For example, in Amsterdam, more than 30 percent of the population uses bicycles, despite the fact that the Netherlands has a higher income per capita than the United States. There is a conflict in developing world cities for money, for government investment. If more money is invested in highways, of course there is less money for housing, for schools, for hospitals, and also there is a conflict for space. There is a conflict for space between those with cars and those without them. Most of us accept today that private property and a market economy is the best way to manage
most of society’s resources. However, there is a problem with that, that market economy needs inequality of income in order to work. Some people must make more money, some others less. Some companies succeed. Others fail. Then what kind of equality can we hope for today with a market economy? I would propose two kinds which both have much to do with cities. The first one is equality of quality of life, especially for children, that all children should have, beyond the obvious health and education, access to green spaces, to sports facilities, to swimming pools, to music lessons. And the second kind of equality is one which we could call “democratic equality.” The first article in every constitution states that all citizens are equal before the law. That is not just poetry. It’s a very powerful principle. For example, if that is true, a bus with 80 passengers has a right to 80 times more road space than a car with one. We have been so used to inequality, sometimes, that it’s before our noses and we do not see it. Less than 100 years ago, women could not vote, and it seemed normal, in the same way that it seems normal today to see a bus in traffic. In fact, when I became mayor, applying that democratic principle that public good prevails over private interest, that a bus with 100 people has a right to 100 times
more road space than a car, we implemented a mass transit system based on buses in exclusive lanes. We called it TransMilenio,
in order to make buses sexier. And one thing is that it is also a very beautiful
democratic symbol, because as buses zoom by, expensive cars stuck in traffic, it clearly is almost a picture of democracy at work. In fact, it’s not just a matter of equity. It doesn’t take Ph.D.’s. A committee of 12-year-old children would find out in 20 minutes that the most efficient way to use scarce road space is with exclusive lanes for buses. In fact, buses are not sexy, but they are the only possible means to bring mass transit to all areas of fast growing developing cities. They also have great capacity. For example, this system in Guangzhou is moving more passengers our direction than all subway lines in China, except for one line in Beijing, at a fraction of the cost. We fought not just for space for buses, but we fought for space for people, and that was even more difficult. Cities are human habitats, and we humans are pedestrians. Just as fish need to swim or birds need to fly or deer need to run, we need to walk. There is a really enormous conflict, when we are talking about developing country cities, between pedestrians and cars. Here, what you see is a picture that shows insufficient democracy. What this shows is that people who walk are third-class citizens while those who go in cars are first-class citizens. In terms of transport infrastructure, what really makes a difference between advanced and backward cities is not highways or subways but quality sidewalks. Here they made a flyover, probably very useless, and they forgot to make a sidewalk. This is prevailing all over the world. Not even schoolchildren
are more important than cars. In my city of Bogotá, we fought a very difficult battle in order to take space from cars, which had been parking on sidewalks for decades, in order to make space for people that should reflect dignity of human beings, and to make space for protected bikeways. First of all, I had black hair before that. (Laughter) And I was almost impeached in the process. It is a very difficult battle. However, it was possible, finally, after very difficult battles, to make a city that would reflect some respect for human dignity, that would show that those who walk are equally important to those who have cars. Indeed, a very important ideological
and political issue anywhere is how to distribute that most valuable resource of a city, which is road space. A city could find oil or diamonds underground and it would not be so valuable as road space. How to distribute it between pedestrians, bicycles, public transport and cars? This is not a technological issue, and we should remember that in no constitution parking is a constitutional right when we make that distribution. We also built, and this was 15 years ago, before there were bikeways in New York or in Paris or in London, it was a very difficult battle as well, more than 350 kilometers of protected bicycle ways. I don’t think protected bicycle ways are a cute architectural feature. They are a right, just as sidewalks are, unless we believe that only those with access to a motor vehicle have a right to safe mobility, without the risk of getting killed. And just as busways are, protected bikeways also are a powerful symbol of democracy, because they show that a citizen on a $30 bicycle is equally important to one in a $30,000 car. And we are living in a unique moment in history. In the next 50 years, more than half of those cities which will exist in the year 2060 will be built. In many developing country cities, more than 80 and 90 percent of the city which will exist in 2060 will be built over the next four or five decades. But this is not just a matter
for developing country cities. In the United States, for example, more than 70 million new homes must be built over the next 40 or 50 years. That’s more than all the homes that today exist in Britain, France and Canada put together. And I believe that our cities today have severe flaws, and that different, better ones could be built. What is wrong with our cities today? Well, for example, if we tell any three-year-old child who is barely learning to speak in any city in the world today, “Watch out, a car,” the child will jump in fright, and with a very good reason, because there are more than 10,000 children who are killed by cars every year in the world. We have had cities for 8,000 years, and children could walk out of home and play. In fact, only very recently, towards 1900, there were no cars. Cars have been here for really
less than 100 years. They completely changed cities. In 1900, for example, nobody was killed by cars in the United States. Only 20 years later, between 1920 and 1930, almost 200,000 people were killed by cars in the United States. Only in 1925, almost 7,000 children were killed by cars in the United States. So we could make different cities, cities that will give more priority to human beings than to cars, that will give more public space to human beings than to cars, cities which show great respect for those most vulnerable citizens, such as children or the elderly. I will propose to you a couple of ingredients which I think would make cities much better, and it would be very simple to implement them in the new cities which are only being created. Hundreds of kilometers of greenways criss-crossing cities in all directions. Children will walk out of homes into safe spaces. They could go for dozens of kilometers safely without any risk in wonderful greenways, sort of bicycle highways, and I would invite you to imagine the following: a city in which every other street would be a street only for pedestrians and bicycles. In new cities which are going to be built, this would not be particularly difficult. When I was mayor of Bogotá, in only three years, we were able to create 70 kilometers, in one of the most dense cities in the world, of these bicycle highways. And this changes the way people live, move, enjoy the city. In this picture, you see in one
of the very poor neighborhoods, we have a luxury pedestrian bicycle street, and the cars still in the mud. Of course, I would love to pave this street for cars. But what do we do first? Ninety-nine percent of the people
in those neighborhoods don’t have cars. But you see, when a city is only being created, it’s very easy to incorporate this kind of infrastructure. Then the city grows around it. And of course this is just a glimpse of something which could be much better if we just create it, and it changes the way of life. And the second ingredient,
which would solve mobility, that very difficult challenge in developing countries, in a very low-cost and simple way, would be to have hundreds of kilometers of streets only for buses, buses and bicycles and pedestrians. This would be, again, a very low-cost solution if implemented from the start, low cost, pleasant transit with natural sunlight. But unfortunately, reality is not as good as my dreams. Because of private property of land and high land prices, all developing country cities
have a large problem of slums. In my country of Colombia, almost half the homes in cities initially were illegal developments. And of course it’s very difficult to have mass transit or to use bicycles in such environments. But even legal developments have also been located in the wrong places, very far from the city centers where it’s impossible to provide low-cost, high-frequency public transport. As a Latin American, and Latin America was the most recently organized region in the world, I would recommend, respectfully, passionately, to those countries which are yet to urbanize — Latin America went from 40 percent urban in 1950 to 80 percent urban in 2010 — I would recommend Asian and African countries which are yet to urbanize, such as India which is only 33 percent urban now, that governments should acquire
all land around cities. In this way, their cities could grow in the right places with the right spaces, with the parks, with the greenways, with the busways. The cities we are going to build over the next 50 years will determine quality of life and even happiness for billions of people towards the future. What a fantastic opportunity for leaders and many young leaders to come, especially in the developing countries. They can create a much happier life for billions towards the future. I am sure, I am optimistic, that they will make cities better than our most ambitious dreams. (Applause)

99 thoughts on “Enrique Peñalosa: Why buses represent democracy in action

  • This video is about more than just public transit. It is about stressing the importance of people, and the value of human lives and a high quality of life.

  • Penalosa's ideas are excellent, but as shown by his actual record, the excesses of planning damaged his popularity, as well as the implementation of even efficient, effective innovations. 

  • it is very obvious this idea could of been implemented in all the BIG modern cities around the world starting back as early as the 1940s  Yet.. it wasn`t,!  why? I bet some people probably even tried to get this type idea`s started back as early as the 1940s  BUT because we lacked the freedom of a massive global internet communication system back then and of course the rich powerful greedy people wanted their own selfish ways of profits to be first on the list. thus hinting at the big oil companies working in conjunction with the automobile companies both planing to making sure the working class had to spend their earning buy cars & gasoline to drive to work..NOW their freaking out with all the green house gases screw up the skies etc… They shit in their own nest & these super BIG power hungry empires don`t want anyone to say to them I told you so!……Depopulating the planet is their easy way out….  I`m Just Saying!  LOL

  • #podemos   #penalosa  es una mente brillante que revoluciona e innova en areas de la sociedad importantes como es la movilidad. Enrique con su planeación y organización mobil en Bogota trazo una linea histórica en cuanto a nivel de vida y cultura ciudadana, Bogota No seria lo que es ahora de no haber sido por ese avance!, Imagino que no haría en Colombia como presidente. 

  • I have the opportunity to be in Miami, New york, Atlanta, Bogota, Rio de janeiro, Paris and other for long period of time and the best places is always the one you can walk free of danger, like central park, leblon, Piedmont park, Brickell, and more; I really like the idea the make cities around the people not cars.

  • sorry but it isn't really, the bogota's people is suffering inequity, the razon is transmilenio system…..  

  • Peopole.can write whatever they want… but this guy was one of the two best mayors in Bogota. This guy change the city so much that almost nobody remember how the city was before and thats the reason people dare to say that he is a lier or a corrupt. The problems are the mayors afther him, but the real problem is the people that forget those who bring a better life for them.

  • hubiera sido un buen presidente!… pero como siempre votamos por el peor, pues ni modo… 8 años desperdiciados con Uribe y ahora 8 mas con Santos… 🙁

  • Beautiful discourse. It is unfortunate that his actions go completely the opposite direction. After 15 years, we are seeing the outcome of investing in diesel powered Transmilenio (BRT) buses, instead of a Metro. The result is a privately operated saturated system, so uncomfortable and crammed with users, which the rich, which Peñalosa fancies will ride buses, would never think of boarding. So much for a charming speech that differs from reality.

  • Stoppppp….. Stopppp this is a bad idea.
    OMG!….. Very late for Colombia.
    We have Transmilenio now and I can assure "This isn't the solution"
    Sorry for my bad English (I'm learning this lenguage)

  • Que pena pero todo esto es pura mierda!!
    Excuse me, but this is all bullshit!
    Mi scusi, ma questa è una stronzata!
    Простите, но это фигня!
    Excusez-moi, mais ce sont des conneries!
    Desculpe-me, mas isso é besteira!
    Entschuldigen Sie, aber das ist Bullshit!

  • Don't believe that guy, he is a LIAR. He lied about his PhD. He has claimed for more than 30 years that he had a PhD. from a french university. But some journalists wondered how it was possible he finished his PhD. studies so young. So, they decided to call the university about this guy, they did not find any PhD. granted to Peñalosa. The discovered the PhD. that Peñalosa used to say he had in fact doesn't exist. The journalists published an article pointing out this fact, and Peñalosa had to rectify that it was a mistake. But it is too late, despite he deleted the information in webpages like wikipedia, in an interview he said that he had a PhD. and the same in two books published by him.

  • This guy is just too much. "Buses Democracy in Action???" He is not a good person, He's a dedicated liar. Please look into his endeavors and ideas a little closer.- He's Volvo's, favorite sales rep, that doesn’t make him a development genius.- He’s also a cement, concrete, and pollution flag bearer (He has much of the mainstream media on his side and that’s why the real stuff doesn’t come out) There's no factual evolution, let alone any sort of revolution, in anything he's telling you right here. – He's a liar; you know? down here in Colombia it is a lot easier to trick people into believing that you have a PhD or a Master's degree in anything, and of course, telling everyone you have them sounds really good, it's only too bad you Don't.- He's been lying about his professional credentials for over 30 years.- Does that sound to you like a well-meaning leader for the masses?
    Could I ever hope to convince you that buses are far better than subways, metros, undergrounds?

  • what a shame!!! Have this kind of person in TED TALKS is ridiculous. He is a liar and the worst persons for talk about democracy.

  • I live in Bogotá, and me and millions of persons else can say that the worst administrative error was use a BRT system above a metro. Today the BRT is a caos and Bogotá the only city on west with more than eight milions of persons without a metro.
    If you want to see the caos in Bogotá, just search transmilenio in google images.
    Be careful with what you hear, Enrique Peñalosa it's a big Liar, every Colombia knows it.

  • now transmilenio is not enough for us , it's uncomfortable , expensive and terrible, I used to ride bike for go to the work because it was a faster way but now the bikeways are dangerous , someone stole my bike .
    Peñalosa is the bogota major again and his politics only are good for rich people, and he made this city his experiment.
    Thanks mr fuc… Volvo.

  • Peñalosa is a liar. He just hates train systems, don't you see he's transmilenio's owner and he needs to sell his own buses? Reality is BRt systems are crap

  • I live in Bogota and Transmilenio, the bikeway system and all his developments are amazing. Transmilenio is the best massive transport solution because it is as good as subway but 10 times cheaper.

  • Hablen en español pirobos … ya se que vienen a ver que dice peñalosa ( que para mi es una figura potencialmente controvercial ),pero tengan en mente esto, Todos los colombianos soñamos con un pais mejor y la mejor forma es una idea a la vez.


  • Enrique dónde vive usted?

    Si señor se ven las obras y lo felicito señor alcalde

    Por favor si va a hacer el metro que sea grande para una ciudad grande como los de Alemania con 4 carriles no dos cuatro carriles dos para tramos cortos y dos para tramos largos como el de parís

    El metro debe ser pensado para más de 20 años pues si llega otro alcalde malo que no se nos retrase la ciudad como la tenían atrasada

    Otra cosa es solucionar el transporte en tras milenio con más intensidad de buses y de rutas cada 2 minutos en hora pico pues mis empleados están gastando dos horas de su vida en un bues por la mañana y dos horas por la tarde son 4 horas de su vida útil de 12 horas están perdiendo calidad de vida en un bus

    Un empleado me contesto por las llegadas tarde a la empresa

    Enrique dónde vive usted?


  • Beautiful discours, BUT I LIVE HERE IN BOGOTÀ AND is a shame that he just talk crap and keep stealing our taxes to increase his own builder business. Hopefully the recall is coming 🙂

  • it would be better if you just show transmilenio or brt at rush hour why not? because youre a seller of buses. thats the true

  • For all those who see the following video, I want to tell you that he is the current mayor of Bogota and is a chaos, many are limited to implement BRT opposes a meter equipped with studies and usually imrpovisa measures that favor the political, Leads anti-environmental policies I invite you to review this person's double standards

  • This guy is unbelievable, what is he doing on TED?, he runs a very juicy business with this so called "sexy buses" which his rich friends would never dare to use, because they're messy, slow, crowded, dangerous…

  • He delayed the construction of the subway in Bogota, a transportation system that is highly required in Bogota. He is also resposible for allowing corruption through the permanent repairs (not maintenance) of the roads used by his stupid buses, without mentioning that all those reparinings are paid by the taxes of the citizens to maintain working a private bussiness owned by Peñalosa (poor people paying the investments of the rich people, that is annoying). He removed a lot fo subsidies that aimed to provide food, public health, and public education for poor people. During some public protests against the private transport system that Peñalosa implemented, a woman died because of the action of the police who were following his orders, and Peñalosa said that situation was "normal" in other cities like Paris or Berlin. Peñalosa also wanted to destroy a forest reserve to allow his corrupt friends to build there. To sum up, this man has delayed the progress of the city by 20 or more years.

  • No crean es este puto de mierda , tiene Bogotá patas arriba , llenandose de dinero mientraas los bogotanos viajan en esa mierda de Transmilenio como cerdos .

  • El señor peñalosa es el actual alcalde de la cuidad de Bogotá, y su gestión es desastroza, solo quiere vender sistemas BTR, ademas de no ser una persona grata, debido a que su compromiso con el medio ambiente es nulo, carece de las credenciales necesarias para que represente un modelo alternativo, el sistema BTR no es viable ni economica ni ambiental ni socialmente. no se dejen engañar


  • He's a liar. He has spent a huge amount of public budget for improving his popularity with advertisements everywhere, since he lied about his nonexistent PhD, he cancelled the Bogotá Metro Subway (for the city government to focus on building more bus lines and buying more buses, instead of beginning the first Metro line that was ready to be built), he has said that works and projects carried out by the previous mayor were made thank to him, he has treated street vendors as inferior beings and he is about to urbanize a natural reserve legally protected. Today, about the 71% of Bogotans disapprove his administration. He's still living in 1998 and the only thing that evolves to him is the size of his pocket. If you know Spanish check this link to get assured about is unpopularity. Have a nice day and greetings from Colombia. http://www.elespectador.com/noticias/bogota/aprobacion-de-penalosa-aumenta-2-pero-sigue-siendo-el-peor-calificado-del-pais-articulo-700554

  • This guy is a liar (and corrupt like all politicians in Colombia), anyone who lives in Bogota and use the Transmilenio daily can tell you about the "democratic" and "equality" of the transport system. There was no change in the public transportation in 70 years, from electric trolleys, diesel buses owned by particulars (who killed the public transportation company in the 80's) to the Transmilenio – who innovate with exclusive lanes and big buses and seems a good idea that works 5 years. But, when he's administration made the contracts for the buses with the same private groups who monopolized the public transport in Bogota, build the ways in the worst possible way – due to bribes from the mexican company Cemex. So, you must hear the history of Transmilenio and it's "democratic" and "equality" spirit from any person who uses it… you who doesn't live in Bogota will discover that's so different of what he says.
    Excuse my english, I'm trying to do my best.

  • I didn’t even know this guy spoke, English.. Nevertheless, this guy is a big liar he made a multibillion dollar deal with Volv denying a subway construction in the city of Bogota. Reducing the quality of life of poor working class people who have to cross over one of Latin America’s largest cities every single day, not to mention the pollution this buses create.. I find it funny this guy praises the European infrastructure model, while in Colombia he applied logically the American system building more highways and roads instead of investing in trains and subways …

  • totally bullshit, the best way to have controled the mind of the people is with transmilenio, he is a liar he lie about his degrees, very disappointing

  • Get a real degree, you clown. You are anything but a democratic major. Bogota does not need more of your harmful buses, but ACTUAL SOLUTIONS. Don't go around ripping more countries off with it.

  • We were condemned to suffer the consequences of the biggest mistake somoene has ever done in Bogotá: Transmilenio. He's no expert, he has systematically lied about his studies and his ideas of development increase urban segregation and inequality.
    Public transport in Bogotá is useless, inefficient and worthless thanks to Peñalosa's idea of replacing a heavy subway with Transmilenio. Hopefully for us, the citizens of Bogotá, he will be revoked. Don't buy his thesis please.

  • What a hypocritical speech; I can’t believe TED allows this kind show.
    If public transport for all is so important why to build the inefficient Transmilenio bus system in avenues were a train/ metro can transport much more people, more comfortably at a lower cost?
    If green spaces and sport facilities are so important to for children, why has he allowed the construction of buildings in protected parks and forestall areas?
    These are just politic words with no action behind, pure crap.

  • The main reason people hate the Bogota BRT is the insufficient number of buses in the system to serve the high demand. If they had triple the fleet they currently have (properly operating at about triple the frequency,) that would be a facto functional poor man's subway.

  • This guy, turned Bogotá into a chaotic city, with an unworthy public transport, people hate each other, the robbery on the part of the company is impressive, causing great damage to people's lives, they are not interested in dignity of the users, they are only interested in selling buses, please, this guy is a seller talks nice but this guy is a danger and his systems is a danger and something unworthy for the user

  • Engañando en inglés . Vendedor de buses que triste. Y asume los logros de otros y le salieron Canas Pobrecito.

  • This guy worked with Cambridge Analytica in favor political preferences in Colombia.

  • Este hijo de la gran puta no le da vergüenza ridiculisarnos, me da pena 🙁 con la audiencia anglo, este cabron ya es demasiado sínico !!!!!!!!! 😷

  • Peñalosa´s "spaninglish" don´t convince because of his LIARS well known for all the people of Bogotá such as Peñalosa´s "doctorate degree" in Paris; that really don´t exist, and the worst, because he is using as new OLD-MOBILITY-TECHNOLOGIES that never gives a real solution to the bigger and bigger mobility´s problems in a big city like Bogotá that really needs only an UNDERGROUND-HEAVY-METRO like the one in New-York city´s

  • This politician corrupt thief is the biggest liar in Colombia. First, he lies with his academic degrees, he doesn't have a Phd or a master's degree, as mayor of Bogota ruined the city, removed trees, withdrew resources to education and public health, commissioned in the sale of Volvo polluting buses, waste in commercial advertising in the media. Nobody wants him in Bogota, all the city rejects him because he is an incompetent thief, a bus seller.

  • Definitivamente este señor demuestra que no sabe nada y quiere es tener publicidad a costa de demostrar cortinas de humo. Deje por favor de decir tantas mentiras por todo el mundo para aumentar su negocio personal. Este señor no me representa, es una vergüenza.

  • Perhaps you know by now that Peñalosa pushes buses sales just because he has a contract with volvo in which he gets paid form every bus system sold, Bogota is his biggest blob, we could have had a metro if this douche had never become a major, everything he says is a lie and he should be un jail for the economic lag his failed system made.

  • WTF is that? Why a person like Peñalosa is giving speeches in TED. That's a complete discredit to TED.

  • I don't think buses represent any democracy, what represents democracy is having a new global transport structure on future good designed vehicle renewable transports, and not cars and buses that pollute the earth.Our cities are bad designed, we use too many cars that are stopped all day on parking… https://www.thevenusproject.com/resource-based-economy/technology/transportation/

  • Lo que representa es la hegemonia y monopolio del transporte urbano de unas familias, no representa a la igualdad ni mucho menos a la democracia, es mas, es el peor sistema de transporte para una ciudad, Bogotá, que genera desigualdad, incomodidad, injusticia, costoso, demoras, robos, etc. No copien este sistema.

  • Don't believe this fraud. as somsone who lives in Bogota, and has for the past 6 years , I am a first-eye witness , and I am here to tell you that Transmilenio is a complete disaster. It is the worst system of transportation. We're talking about 1-20 minutes Bus delays, constant crowding, and travelling in an over-filled Bus every single day, Buses breaking down in the middle of transit, etc. This guy has schemed, and lied his way to being able to sell this disastrous method of transportation, just to line his pockets.

  • A 248 Colombianos les disgusta esté vídeo, porqué saben perfectamente que ha hecho Enrique Peñalosa por su país.
    – FIN.

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