Sidewalks are Symbols

dying embers of the sun
[full version on black is here]

Personally, I only feel at home when I’m living in a neighborhood that has sidewalks. Other than when I lived out in the boonies of Ontario, most of my life I’ve been lucky enough to live in urban environments, and I’m happy with that choice. The suburbs are wastelands. Enrique Peñalosa agrees with me:

Deborah Solomon – Q: As a former mayor of Bogotá, Colombia, who won wide praise for making the city a model of enlightened planning, you have lately been hired by officials intent on building world-class cities, especially in Asia and the developing world. What is the first thing you tell them?

ENRIQUE PEÑALOSA: In developing-world cities, the majority of people don’t have cars, so I will say, when you construct a good sidewalk, you are constructing democracy. A sidewalk is a symbol of equality.

Q: I wouldn’t think that sidewalks are a top priority in developing countries.

The last priority. Because the priority is to make highways and roads. We are designing cities for cars, cars, cars, cars, cars. Not for people. Cars are a very recent invention. The 20th century was a horrible detour in the evolution of the human habitat. We were building much more for cars’ mobility than children’s happiness.

Q: Even in countries where most people can’t afford to own cars?/

The upper-income people in developing countries never walk. They see the city as a threatening space, and they can go for months without walking one block.

Q: Isn’t that true here in the United States as well?

Not in Manhattan, but there are many suburbs where there are no sidewalks, which is a very bad sign of a lack of respect for human dignity. People don’t even question it. It’s the same as it was in pre-revolutionary France. People thought society was normal, just as today people think it is normal that the Long Island Sound waterfront should be private.

[From Questions for Enrique Peñalosa – Man With a Plan – Questions for Enrique Peñalosa – Mayors – Bogotá, Colombia –]

Alleys and sidewalks, the yin and yang of urban life. [More alleyways]

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