Urbanist slashing of Bogotá

After a cold and sleepless night I arrived in Bogotá. It took us two hours from the start of the city to the centre because of all the traffic jam – even scooters were stopped.

After a cold and sleepless night I arrived in Bogotá. It took us two hours from the start of the city to the centre because of all the traffic jam – even scooters were stopped. I love Bogotá, and the former mayor Enrique Peñalosa, author of several smart quotes such as this one:

It’s so true. If you see me start with a taxi in a new city, then that is an old city that needs to get more advanced (Rio de Janeiro*, Sucre, La Paz, Guayaquil). If you see me, first time, in a subway or bus, then it’s a good city (Brasilia, São Paulo, Buenos Aires, Santiago).

*Just the payment system that didn’t work for me.

And Bogotá has, under his leadership, been built so that the very fastest transportation (at least during rush hours like this one) is the BRT system. Although, by looking at how extremely packed it was (which of course is a great victory) one wonders if not a train line with hundred meters trains would have been better. (And adding long term buses to the street on the left would have saved me 1.5 hours! This is the most environmental way from Ecuador, if not bicycling.)

Another quote that I really like (although I can’t find it) is when he visited the impoverished part of Husby in Stockholm. He loved Husby. But he said that it was green. Too green. “I’m afraid that all this greenness is helping setting this area apart from the rest”. (Quoted in some local newspaper.) I loved reading it, as that’s what I’ve been trying to tell my own Green Party for the last ten years or so. Here’s how the poor parts of Stockholm and Göteborg are built:

I grew up in one of these ghettos. And I cared a lot about the nature, I must admit. Was a boy scout etc. But for most people, it’s simply “nothing”. You can take a walk there with your dog, of course. But mostly it’s separating you from the city, and from the other suburbs. The Greens go like “you can’t build there, you’d remove the trees!”. But by building even more suburbs further out, we remove even more trees! Here’s an info-graph from a Canadian city, although the same numbers work wherever in the world:

Ten times more road in the suburb, and more of everything else. Building urban parts is effective for the government. But when you look at prices (and queuing times) in Sweden, you see that it is also wanted by the people. So why not just save the trees elsewhere, create an efficient city and happier people by building like this:

Sorry for my graphic skills. The red squares are simply city buildings, filling out the area. This density makes for more subway lines connecting the ghettos. The ghettos (where there is already quite some shops) get more valuable. Everyone wins.

Now, I must say that I found Bogotá pretty green as well.

This park in the very centre btw. Is this why all those people tried getting inside? I think not. They are coming for their jobs. What they need is central houses! And Bogotá didn’t have a lot of that. Why not build huge, central towers?

Here is a great street! Bogotá done right. Is it a coincidence that we here have a bicycle shop? I think not.

Vegetarian sandwich 🙂 Without the proteins 🙁

And I saw plenty of houses like the one above. House, plus greenery, that is strictly for the neighbours themselves, hence the fence keeping outsiders away. A fence that might not have been there in the beginning, but is there now. The consequence is that walking this area at night, makes it dark and scary. Instead, keep the greens on the inside, and line the streets with the buildings, packed with shops in the bottom, or other kind of public spaces.

Yellow is the street, red the building.

The house above is an “A”. While in “B”, we have exactly the same amount of building space, but it’s protecting the greenery so that people on the outside don’t even see it. This makes it more used by the people living there, they might leave children’s toys etc. Here’s a source in Swedish about this. You create more safety for the people inside (making it more possible that rich people live centrally) AND more safety for the people on the outside, with all the windows facing the street. If noise from the road => thicker windows. If flooding alert (another Greenish excuse) => water system a la Tokyo.

So, I didn’t end up that keen on Peñalosa and Bogotá. Although I’m sure that he has done the best with the money that he had had. As a final death to Bogotá, I ended up taking a taxi to my friend Mónica, which places Bogotá with La Paz and Guayaquil, and not with Santiago and São Paulo.

Mónica wasn’t home, so I spent the afternoon reading “A Game as Old as Empire” that I found in their bookshelf. A slightly paranoid book, although I found nothing wrong in it. In the evening they came home, I said “hello” and passed out on the sofa. Can’t have two sleepless nights :p.

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