PUBLICATIONS 2009


'Talking about Mobility and Urbanism' is one of our social initiatives, which is based on opinion-forming articles written by Carlos A. Gonzalez G, director of M&U Movilidad y Urbanismo, and published in several prestigious printed media in Colombia. This initiative is part of our commitment to a real Social and Environmental Responsibility in our firm. In particular, this series of articles aims to contribute to a better judgment and enhance citizen participation in these topics. Similarly, other academic articles and technical reports are included in this section for the interest of a more specialized audience.

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ANOTHER URBAN LEGEND

publicado a la‎(s)‎ 1 ene. 2012 5:02 por Carlos A. Gonzalez G.   [ actualizado el 5 feb. 2012 16:06 ]

Carlos A. González G.

'El Tiempo' Newspaper
Digital Edition, Opinion Section
Colombia, 17th December 2009

Opinion article

Orginal title: 'Otra leyenda urbana'

It is well-known that many cities of the industrialized world -and also of the less industrialized- have for decades not only associated the construction of motorways to the idea of progress, but it was also difficult for the citizens to visualize this idea without the presence of great road infrastructures.

Then, since nowadays many of those city icons of the industrialized world have decided in some cases to demolish or hide, and in others to avoid the construction of new urban motorways, it could be questioned if they have decided to resign to progress -something little likely- or if, as is usual, they have discovered something that we refuse to see in our cities in spite of the evidence.

The truth is that these cities have realized decades ago, not only that the problem of the traffic congestion is not solved by building new and wide urban motorways, which has been well reported in countless scientific reports and traffic statistics which are in the hands of the local authorities, but also that it is necessary to widen the field of analysis, changing form a reduced focus on the traffic problem to a broader focus that deals with the urban mobility problem.

Recently, the city of Boston (United States) has decided to get rid of the motorway known as the “Central Artery” (formally John F. Fitzgerald Expressway), which since the fifties crossed abruptly the centre of the city. To do so, they chose to replace it by a tunnel and turn its surface into a great open public space with parks and gardens, which has made a drastic change in the centre of this prosperous city. In the same way, the city of Barcelona (Spain) has recently transformed one of its main highways, the central stretch of the Diagonal Avenue, into an axis of sustainable mobility by eliminating 50% of the lanes destined to the private vehicle in order to provide space for a new tram line, cycling lanes and avenues for pedestrians. Also, the growing anti-motorway movements in North-American cities such as Seattle (WA), Buffalo (NY), New Orleans (LA) and Toronto (ON) amongst others should rouse our curiosity. In these cities the citizens have opposed themselves to the development of new projects and at the same time they demand some of the old urban motorways to be transformed into boulevards to revitalize these areas of the city and to improve their quality of live.

In spite of these revealing facts where some of the world reference cities are involved in, in the Colombian cities we continue anchored in a mobility paradigm, which identifies the urban motorway as a magical solution for the congestion and as an indisputable indicator of the progress of a city. And this is so in spite of the recent advances implementing several Bus Rapid Transit –BRT- systems, which allowed us to overcome the terrible situation in which the traditional public transport had us plunged in, and which in spite of everything refuses to disappear.

In this sense, it is worth mentioning the most recent initiative formulated in our country concerning urban motorways: the future Bicentenary Motorway of the city of Cali. It has been promoted by the City Hall of Cali as “the motorway of the progress” and it is meant to travel from the north to the south crossing the city centre literally in a straight line in only 15 minutes. Furthermore, since the motorway will be built by means of a dealership (concession), the investment will not be done with the budget of the municipality, but instead it will be financed by the private sector by means of charging an electronic toll applied to the thousands of cars that are expected to travel daily through this motorway.

Without undermining the goodwill of the local administration to contribute with solutions to help solve the mobility problems of the city, it is necessary to contribute with some elements that are worthy for the discussion, which apparently have not been considered at the time this solution for the city was formulated and that, on the other hand, should have been taken into account for making decisions of this kind.

Some of the most important elements are next summarized: The Bicentenary Motorway, as has been shown in this kind of infrastructures, will generate more traffic in the city (because of the induced and latent demand, that is, because of the attraction of drivers form other areas and because of new automobile users) and after a few years it will have the same congestion as the present roads have today; as a consequence of the traffic increase, it will generate a greater environmental and noise pollution in the whole city, specially the areas that are closest to the route; the increase of the maximum speed will cause an increase of traffic accidents, as has happened in other cities of the industrialized world, but with the aggravating factor of our peculiar culture of little respect for the traffic rules and for safe driving; it will affect the city with many negative externalities that arise form the public initiative which allows the freight transport cross the city centre using this motorway in order to improve its cost-effectiveness; it will transform negatively the urban landscape of the adjacent areas, at the same time that it will create a spatial fracture in the whole of the city; it will be detrimental for implanting the future metropolitan massive transport system, which according to the territorial plan should occupy the current North-South corridor and that would be occupied by the motorway ; and finally, it will promote an outdated mobility model where the use of the private vehicle is stimulated instead of favouring a quality public transport and other sustainable transport modes (walking and cycling).

There is no doubt that for large cities, such as the city of Cali, with more than two million inhabitants, road infrastructures of great capacity, such as ring roads, are necessary because they do not only redistribute the traffic that moves from one end to the other of the city, but they also avoid the traffic that has to pass through the city to reach another destination and which would be detrimental for the mobility of the city. What is not appropriate is to continue enlarging unlimitedly the capacity of these infrastructures, increasing their negative effects on the city; and also not to try to destroy the city implanting great motorways which cross the city in all directions.

The city of Cali has a unique opportunity to redirect its mobility paradigm and to resolutely bet on the enlargement of the present Bus Rapid Transit system –MIO-, on the future implementation of the metropolitan railway public transport system, and on the development of an extensive cycling network, amongst many other sustainable mobility measures. This should be done at the same time as the recovery of the damaged road network and providing an intelligent transport system –ITS- to manage and regulate more efficiently the city’s traffic.

It is in the hands of the local administration to work for the strengthening of the local governability, keeping in mind the constructive contributions of the several social agents. On the other hand, it is the responsibility of the citizens of Cali to reflect on the apathy with which we move towards a city model from which the industrialized world is turning away from, and on the opportunity that we have to rethink, to plan and to build together the city that we wish.

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This is a translation of the original version in Spanish entitled 'Otra leyenda urbana'. The opinions expressed in this article are solely responsibility of the author and they do not compromise the point of view of any related institution.

+ Link to this article on the website of El Tiempo Newspaper


MOBILITY IN CALI?

publicado a la‎(s)‎ 1 ene. 2012 4:54 por Carlos A. Gonzalez G.   [ actualizado el 5 feb. 2012 16:07 ]

Carlos A. González G.

'El Tiempo' Newspaper
Digital Edition, Opinion Section
Colombia, 8th October 2009


Opinion article

Original title: '¿Movilidad en Cali?'

It is well known that stories with a bad beginning normally do not have a different ending, and this is especially true in the case of the Urban Mobility Plan of Cali city. Even if this plan theoretically exists since last year, in practice nobody has seen a document that resembles it and much less so, does anybody know how it has benefited us.

Continuing with the sad tradition of the local administration of our city, the local government was incapable to enforce the article 2 of the Law 1083 of 2006, regarding the obligation to present an Urban Mobility Plan for the city at the latest on the 31st of July 2008. It was only when a group of citizens brought a lawsuit against the local administration taken up to the Administrative Litigious Court of Valle del Cauca, that the local government was forced to hurriedly carry out this procedure, in view of having one of their government employees ending up spending some days looking through the bars of the least desired “hotel” of the city, if they failed to execute the sentence.

The “Integral Mobility Plan of the Municipality of Cali” (adopted by means of the 0615 Municipal Decree of the 10th of November of 2008) deserves a place in the “Guinness World Records” book for having been developed in a period of time never seen before (only a couple of months) for a city with more than two million inhabitants. This, of course, does not speak in favour of the efficient management of the municipal offices in charge, but instead says a lot about their inability to carry it out.

The much awaited mobility plan for the city, turned out to be a brief document, resembling a decree, of forty two pages which, from the beginning to the end, merely lists objectives and strategies in a simple and sometimes incoherent way. This, which would not seem important for those who are not experts on this subject, is in fact very serious in the sense that this decree lacks a technical document of support (that is, the mobility plan as such) which should contain a broad section on the analyses of the present situation, followed by a rigorous diagnosis, in order to then end up with a series of detailed proposals that, the same as in all of the sections, would deal with the several components of urban mobility: pedestrians, cyclists, public transport and private transport. Even though, to be truthful, most of this irresponsibility falls on the previous local administration (2004-2007 period) which during one and a half years did not deign to draw up a single paragraph of the mobility plan; the present administration, which has been recognized as one of the best in the country, did not assume the challenge as it was needed, evidencing the hurry to comply with a mere administrative formality, instead of the will of satisfying the city on such an important subject as is mobility.

An Urban Mobility Plan has to be understood as the fundamental document to configure the sustainable mobility strategies of the municipality, in agreement with the determinations made in their Urban Planning. This document is not only limited to a strategic component, but it also has to set, with the greatest detail possible, the actions that have to be carried out and what is more, it should be subjected to the processes of the citizen’s participation in order to allow a social consensus. This is, we are talking about the “navigation card of the mobility of the city” for a fixed period of time, on which the government has to base its decisions regarding the new actions -not contained in this card- regarding mobility that are wished to be implemented.

If at present we had a real mobility plan, it would be relatively easy to answer key questions such as Which are truly the infrastructure projects that have priority for the mobility of the city? Or, Is it really necessary to build a toll motorway to cross the city from North to South? This is how projects which imply great investments, such as the “21 Megaconstructions” and the “Bicentenary Motorway” at present promoted by the local government, are not supported by a mobility plan as it is expected to be, but by other technical studies that have achieved the level of “urban legend” since, even though we all accept their existence, up to date no citizen has been able to see them and much less so, touch them.

Even if it is true that Cali city needs drastic measures to get the city out of the backwardness reached thanks to the disastrous previous administrations, and that for that the taxpayers will have to make an additional economic effort to support the present administration in their effort to relaunch the city; old practices such as improvisation and occultism regarding the projects related to mobility, have to be vigorously rejected because they are harmful for the needed regeneration of the confidence between the citizens and the local government.

This way and along with a serious planning and a strengthening of the effective citizen’s participation, it will be possible to build a new public management culture in the city of Cali. This culture could be inaugurated by sitting down and discussing a real mobility plan, that allows us to pass from the myth by decreeing plans that do not exist, to the reality by confronting the challenges of shaping the city’s future.

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This is a translation of the original version in Spanish entitled '¿Movilidad en Cali?'. The opinions expressed in this article are solely responsibility of the author and they do not compromise the point of view of any related institution.

+ Link to this article on the website of El Tiempo Newspaper

HOUSING FOR THE POOR

publicado a la‎(s)‎ 1 ene. 2012 4:42 por Carlos A. Gonzalez G.   [ actualizado el 5 feb. 2012 16:07 ]

Carlos A. González G.


'El Tiempo' Newspaper
Digital Edition, Opinion Section
Colombia, 15th September 2009


Opinion article

Original title: 'Vivienda para pobres'

It is clear that in recent years a great effort has been made to provide social housing to low income families in some of the main Colombian cities, this without a doubt is a light in the dark in our exasperating social injustice. But, that from the point of view of other more revealing indicators than quantity, these projects could be considered “good practices” to provide social housing (priority state-subsidized housing VISP and state-subsidized housing VIS) or that they could contribute to a real reduction of the social inequality, is not too clear.

Although the provision of social housing (the maximum value of which is of about 25 million Colombian Pesos for the VISP and of about 63 million pesos for the VIS) represents an economic effort on behalf of the national government and of the local and regional administrations, for the construction sector it is a really significant business. The social housing market business has not only been profitable in the past and still nowadays, but it has also been a cushion against economic recession periods for the construction sector as shown in recent reports. Given the double condition, public practicing and private execution, sometimes when the first one (local administration) does not exert an effective regulation over the second one (construction company), the social housing stops being a social function of the government to become a profitable business for the private sector, where in the name of profitability, all tricks are valid.

Why are these houses always in such remote and badly communicated areas? Why are they always concentrated in the same marginal areas of the city? How can a family live in such a small and overcrowded house? Why do these neighbourhoods have so few green areas and hardly any park? All these are obvious questions when we see the politician of the moment announcing, with great song and dance, a new social housing project. Not only do not all of us ask ourselves these questions, but in fact some people decide to ignore them in spite of how obvious they are and because they feel too distant from the precarious world of “cheap houses”.

Firstly, the disadvantaged location of these social housing projects is due to the fact that in the outlying areas with worse accessibility of the city, the land value is lower. Furthermore, since social housing is legally related to “cheap”, thus intrinsically linked to “precarious”; the decision of the local administration in regard of where to locate the new social housing project is obvious. Thus, it seems that the urban sprawl, the marginalization and the unsustainable urban growth model do not matter to anyone, while inside the city the local administration fakes to be blind given all the undeveloped plots, as well as they pretend not to hear about the possibility of carrying out urban regeneration projects by re-densification in wide areas of the city.

Regarding the socio-spatial segregation, it is not necessary to be a genius to understand that as long as the public sector –local administration- does not promote the social cohesion by means of its main role in the urban planning, it will continue being common to find these big districts of “beautiful people” far away from the poor districts of “ugly people?” in our cities. This is that it is necessary to ensure that every new real estate project of free market housing assigns a percentage of its supply to social housing as part of the urban obligations for new residential developments (which is at current the model in several European cities). Apart from some populist distortion and from malicious classist comments that some people put forward hastily, this new urban model invites us to reflect about the need to reduce the socio-spatial stigmatization of social housing, achieving as a first step, that the state-subsidized housing –VIS- has participation in the housing supply in more areas of the city.

The reason for the small size of the social houses is not a secret. On the one hand, a malicious interpretation of the article 15 of the law 388/1997 (paragraph 1), has made it possible to modify the minimum standard of quality for social houses “... according to the conditions of its price...”. This means that based on the law, since the social housing is cheap, its construction could be precarious. Subsequently, the “ingenious” decree-law 2060 of 24 June 2004 also established a minimum plot of 35 square meters for a house, which in practice has became the maximum. On the other hand, the terms of the agreement between the local administration and the construction company, makes it possible for this last one to increase the number of houses in a single piece of land in order to obtain a greater profit at the expenses of quality and habitability of the social houses. This situation has turned the construction companies into a factory of little Barbie houses, of course not because of the beauty of the social house, but because of its shamefully tiny size.

Last but not least, the precarious public space is on the one hand, a technical problem of urban management which is easy to resolve. This problem consists not only on the fact that usually the percentage of land allowed for public space and urban services is calculated only according to the total area of the land (about 25% of the land) without taking into account the density of houses, but also on the fact that the evil article above mentioned, makes this kind of urban aberrations in the development of social housing projects possible. On the other hand, these urban aberrations are commonly brewed on the design tables of the construction companies, since they understand the public space as “residual land”. Finally, the regulation organizations of the local administration are permissive regarding the dark interests of the construction companies, and worse still, some times these urban aberrations have been organized by the same local administrations.

In spite of that some in the construction trade dare to insinuate with cynicism that the public housing cannot aspire to become much more given the present outlook, it is precisely this kind of mentality that we have to start changing. First, because while the economic profits of the private sector continue taking priority over the collective welfare of the society in the provision of public housing, there will not be much to do for the people. Second, because it is necessary that we expand our concept of public housing beyond the present and stigmatized perception of housing for the poor in order to create a real alternative supply to cover a wider portion of the society. This matter, by the way, is already invented, something we would know if we stopped being inward-looking when we try to resolve local problems.

In the light of the four indicators presented here, and far from trying to turn this into an urban dogma, every citizen may evaluate if the present public housing projects can be qualified as “good practices” or not. This evaluation has to be done keeping in mind that under the current Colombian regulations there are urban management tools to regulate this kind of proceedings; but to use them adequately the local political will is needed, which in spite of the election promises and of some rare cases, very often is conspicuous by its absence.

For the moment, if we are conformists we can be happy with the good intentions and with the fact that more and more families with low incomes now have a “decent house”; a term that still has not been clearly defined, but that for sure does not yet imply an effective integration to the dynamics of the city and a greater social cohesion in our fractured society.

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This is a translation of the original version in Spanish entitled 'Vivienda para pobres'. The opinions expressed in this article are solely responsibility of the author and they do not compromise the point of view of any related institution.

+ Link to this article on the website of El Tiempo Newspaper

MORE MOTORWAYS FOR MORE AUTOMOBILES? WE ARE DEFINITELY ON THE WRONG WAY

publicado a la‎(s)‎ 1 ene. 2012 4:26 por Carlos A. Gonzalez G.   [ actualizado el 5 feb. 2012 16:09 ]

Carlos A. González G.


'Dinero' Magazine
Digital Edition, Opinion Section
Colombia, 20th March 2009


Opinion article

Original title: '¿Más vías para más automóviles? Definitivamente vamos mal'

Although it would not seem strange that still in full twenty first century an unaware citizen, nostalgic of “the American dream” of the fifties, would dare to mention the case of North-American cities such as Los Angeles and Detroit as examples to follow regarding the urban mobility, what does seem at least disconcerting is that it is in the specialised rooms of the local administration from where the promotion of these anachronistic mobility models is made. If the novelty now is that we are going to resolve the congestion problem building wide and “ultramodern” motorways, then there is no doubt, we are definitely on the wrong way.

The idea of copying a mobility model where by building or enlarging urban motorways it is possible to reduce congestion and therefore to improve the traffic since more road space is available for the automobiles, and if to this we add that as this case is about urban toll routes that allow to finance its construction so that it is not the state that has to spend public money but the drivers; it turns out at least praiseworthy with regard to the search for solutions.

The problem is that the proposal is lacking technical fundamentals, since the mentioned logical formulation where the greater the space for vehicles, the lower the congestion, is not only false but many researches made over the last twenty years have shown the contrary: the more available routes, the more users are prepared to use the automobile, so that the congestion reappears shortly after that. So we have not found the goose that laid the golden egg, amongst other things because neither the geese lay golden eggs, nor such as in this kind of proposal, everything that shines is gold.

A few examples turn out sufficiently illustrative. The case of Los Angeles city, much quoted at international level as one of the big mistakes learnt, is of great interest because of the evident harmful consequences of the implementation of the North- American mobility model of the seventies, since years later the abundant empirical evidence allowed to establish that the increase of the supply (construction of new motorways and increase in the number of lanes in the existing ones) brings an increase of both the induced and the latent demand (users of other routes and potential new users of the automobile), so the new lanes end up congested again and therefore the investment distorted. On the Latin-American side, Mexico city in its advance towards the much yearned for North-American modernity, recently chose to build a second level for the west stretch of one of the ring road of the city “El Periférico Poniente”, with the aim of reducing the congestion and in that way increasing the average speed of the automobiles; a few years and hundreds of millions of dollars later, the congestion on the top and on the bottom lanes tends to be the same, but not so the pollution and the public debt of the city.

In general terms, a double aim such as reducing congestion (as a result of less drivers being willing to use the motorway if one has to pay to do so) and at the same time finance the construction of this road infrastructure ( by means of a system of concession that implies the payment of a toll), turns out not only confusing but also contradictory when we are talking about urban environments. If the idea is to reduce congestion what is expected from the local government is that a traffic reduction is produced reaching an optimum point in operative terms, on the other hand if the aim is to finance the construction of the infrastructure by means of a concession to the private sector, what the private company hopes for is that many vehicles circulate for the business to be profitable even if it implies a greater pollution in the city amongst other negatives externalities.

Therefore, neither the increase of the supply of road infrastructure generates a significant reduction of the congestion at a medium term, and even less at a long term, nor is it coherent to promote the construction of urban highways under the argument of the search of two aims as different as contradictory: reduction of the congestion and money collection for the financing of the road infrastructure.

It is worth mentioning that it does not have to do with disqualifying the endowment of any road infrastructure, since it is fundamental that this endowment is carried out when it is referring to cities that do not have a complete road infrastructure that allows the access to the different areas or in the case of the needed ring roads. What matters is to avoid that the unhealthy idea of achieving a better mobility implies elevated motorways with twelve lanes that intertwine in all directions resembling a futuristic movie, installs itself in the mind of the citizen. At this stage the questions are simple, if we wanted to build highways progressively for all the automobiles that we could have in the future, that for sure would be too many, what would the city turn into? Would that city be the one that we wish for?

The search for the reduction of the congestion and, in general, for a more sustainable mobility in Colombian cities, would be better based on measures such as the rationalization of the use of the existing infrastructure where the priority of use is given to the transport mode of greater environmental efficiency (in particular to the optimised public transport), the implementation of preferential lanes for automobiles with high occupation (the ones with more than two passengers) in the main roads, the endowment of infrastructure only for the cases where the road network is incomplete, the determined investment in high and medium capacity massive public transport systems, the efficient management of car parks, and in the future, when the scenario allows it -existence of a good supply of public transport as an effective alternative- the implementation of strategies such as a tax by congestion in the centre of the city and an urban toll as a congestion regulator in some existing urban roads with a high flow of cars, amongst many more measures oriented to reduce the participation of the private vehicle in the whole of the mobility of the city until reaching optimal levels.

Do you perhaps continue dreaming to drive your automobile through empty streets and at great speed in a city free from traffic lights and from annoying pedestrians? Wake up, the city has not been, is not, and will not be as those that the TV commercials try to sell us in which “the only one on the road are you and your car” Nonsense, we are many more.

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This is a translation of the original version in Spanish entitled '¿Más vías para más automóviles? Definitivamente vamos mal'. The opinions expressed in this article are solely responsibility of the author and they do not compromise the point of view of any related institution.

+ Link to this article on the website of Dinero Magazine

THE PEAK OF THE PEDESTRIAN BRIDGE: AN URBAN STEP FORWARD OR BACKWARDS?

publicado a la‎(s)‎ 1 ene. 2012 4:16 por Carlos A. Gonzalez G.   [ actualizado el 5 feb. 2012 16:10 ]

Carlos A. González G.

'El Espectador' Newspaper
Digital Edition, Bogotá Section
Colombia, 2nd March 2009


Opinion article

Original title: 'El auge del puente peatonal: ¿avance o retroceso urbano?'

While the local administrations of the main Colombian cities swell with pride -and occasionally, at the same time they wink the eye with complicity to their friends of the construction sector- when they declare to the media that a plan for a massive construction of pedestrian bridges “to make our cities a better place” will be carried out, there is a growing number of citizens without car, that is the wide majority, that sitting in front of the TV begin to experience a reasonable doubt: Why do we need these bridges if we can share the right to cross the street using zebra crossings and traffic lights for pedestrians?

The question is not trivial, even though many of the arguments against it and in favour of giving priority to the private vehicle on the streets could be trivial, and they present a wide set of pseudo-approaches.

Thus, it would be interesting to mention some of the most “notable” arguments.

The pseudo-physical arguments consider that the priority to the private vehicle is based on the fact that the automobile weighs much more than a person (about 1.200 kilograms), that the automobile moves faster and/or that according to the traffic flow theory it is possible to move more cars than pedestrians in a period of time on a specific road.

The pseudo-economic arguments consider on the one hand that an uninterrupted car flow has an important role on the economic performance of the city and therefore it is necessary to do whatever to improve it. On the other hand, they also suggest that the importance of this kind of traffic is such that a high traffic flow of private vehicles is a characteristic of cities with a high economic performance, such as several research papers referred to the main North American cities have proved.

The pseudo-social arguments declare their great worry regarding the security of the pedestrians since the hundreds of pedestrians deceased last year are due to their audacity trying to cross the street defying the traffic –therefore understanding that the street is the kingdom of the private vehicle-, and therefore it is fundamental not only to provide bridges for the pedestrians but also to oblige them to use them even imposing monetary penalties if do not do so.

Luckily, a small but growing group of citizens do not nod their head in agreement anymore in view of the dogma which establishes this kind of arguments (group that not only includes pedestrians by force but also drivers who are beginning to change their point of view), however, there are still a lot of people who given this kind of arguments can only ask themselves “And from the point of view of improving the traffic, Where is the mistake?”

The mistake is just there, in the obtuse nature of a point of view which focuses its attention on the problem of the “traffic” rather than on the “mobility”

Firstly, in the light of the mobility, we would understand that what is important is not to improve the movement of the “automobiles” but the one of the “trips”. A basic example will be enlightening: If in the rush hour 1.000 trips (or people) leave a specific area of the city in direction to the centre, what is important is not to do whatever to facilitate that about 833 automobiles (with an average occupation of 1,2 passengers/vehicle as at current) move without interruptions due to junctions regulated by traffic lights, but to think how to achieve that these trips are carried out in a more efficient way, that is, with public transport systems of high performance, since they occupy less road space per traveller. Thus, about 8 articulated buses moving on an exclusive lane can move those same 1000 people in less travel time, contributing to the reduction of the congestion level and de pollution in a corridor on which another thousand of trips are made at same time, amongst which the ones done in private vehicle are specially marked.

In the same way, in many cases a high flow of private vehicles is a consequence of a high economic performance of the city but it is not the cause of it, that is why in the same papers –but some times in small print- the researchers clarify that the categorical results found in North-American cities do not explain why cities of the North of Europe such as Zurich and Stockholm, can have high indicators of economic performance at the same time that they show ridiculous levels of traffic congestion related to the lower participation of the private vehicle in the whole mobility of the city. It is clear that the great difference is the culture of the generalized use of the private vehicle in Northern American cities, in front of the culture of giving priority and promoting the high standard public transport systems, the bicycle and pedestrians, which is a characteristic of the Northern European countries which present the higher levels of social welfare.

Last but not least, the protection of the pedestrian should not be based on their expulsion of the street but to establish fair rules which guarantee their rights to coexist in the public space where the streets are an integral part. The question here is not to fanatically attack all pedestrian bridges, but to attack the fact that they become the gold standard and that other alternatives which include the pedestrian are not explored.

So as long as we do not think in terms of an “integral mobility policy”, we will continue to implement crazy initiatives that do not contribute to improve the urban mobility, such as the absurd idea that it is necessary to remove pedestrians from the streets so that automobiles can move faster and without interruptions, and worse still, they will continue selling the idea that a massive plan to build pedestrian bridges is a strong bet on sustainable mobility in our cities.

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This is a translation of the original version in Spanish entitled 'El auge del puente peatonal: ¿avance o retroceso urbano?'. The opinions expressed in this article are solely responsibility of the author and they do not compromise the point of view of any related institution.

+ Link to this article on the website of El Espectador Newspaper

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