People do not like to live in a spiceless city – Gil Penalosa

“People do not like to live in a spiceless city.”

These were the words of renowned urban expert and visionary Gil Penalosa, Executive Director of 8-80 Cities, when he spoke at the Rose Theatre in Brampton on April 23, 2014.

Rose Theatre bike props 2_750   Rose Theatre ‘bike-bedecked’

The most important ingredient in this city ‘dish’ is pedestrians, added Mr. Penalosa. People walking, cycling and using public transit should have dignity and not be forced to dodge cars and use poorly designed and maintained facilities.

“Walking, biking and transit must be best friends.”

People should be able to move easily and conveniently amongst these three modes for a liveable city. We create vibrant cities with happy people. Cities should be fantastic whether you are 8 or 80 years old!

Mr. Penalosa entertained the large Rose Theatre crowd with hundreds of images to support his well-documented and inspirational 2-hour presentation. This event was sponsored by the Brampton Downtown Development Corporation , which has hired 8-80 Cities from an Ontario funded Doable Neighbourhood Project grant. Three “doable” pilot projects will be selected for Brampton’s downtown.

Gil Penalosa speaking Rose Theatre_750   Gil Penalosa delivering keynote

Born in Columbia, and consulting for cities around the world, Gil Penalosa decided to settle and run his not-for-profit foundation from Toronto. As former Commissioner of Parks, Sport and Recreation for Bogota Columbia, he initiated a 360 hectare park, which has evolved into Ciclovia, where 121 km of roads are shut every Sunday for over 1 million cyclists, walkers, runners and skaters. His philosophy is that cities should be healthy and vibrant for everyone, despite social, economic, or ethnic background.

He cited the example of Copenhagen, with a similar climate and snowy winters, where the priority is to clear sidewalks first, then bike lanes and finally roads for cars. They changed their culture through a conscious decision.

“Walking and cycling are symbols of respect for people.”

“There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.”

Gil Penalosa on TED Talks, 2011

BBAC members bring bike props Rose Theatre_750   The Brampton Bicycle Advisory Committee was honoured to assist this presentation by helping local retailer Cyclepath supply several bicycles for stages props. Members cycled onto the Rose stage while BDDC President Peter VanSickle introduced Mr. Penalosa.

David Laing & Councillor Hutton Rose Theatre stage_750   David Laing & Councillor Hutton backstage

Since the trend is for fewer young people to drive, we risk losing our bright and capable to urban areas that do accommodate their use of active transportation and public transit.

“We have learned how to survive, but not how to live.”

Living depends on the built environment and selecting quality over quantity.

“We build more roads like we are putting out a fire by pouring gasoline on it.”

The big success stories have resulted from the political will to act. Mr. Penalosa peppered the audience with examples that resonate. Melbourne Australia transformed their city with public art that can only be enjoyed by travelling slowly. New York provides cheap rent to flower sellers in return for 24 hour opening which improves street safety and cuts need for more policing. Ann Fenton, an Orangeville physical education teacher shut down her school parking lot, put up pylons to force parents to drop off children ¼ km away from school to encourage active transportation. On 9th Avenue in New York, two Commissioners transformed the street in only 30 days!

“We need to reward politicians to take risks, not do more of the same.”

In fact, this is more important than having dollars to throw at these changes.

“Think outside the box. This is not a financial issue; not a technical issue; it is a political issue.”

Gil Penalosa & David Laing discuss Brampton biking_750   Gil Penalosa & David Laing

Rose Theatre bike props 4_750
Rose Theatre bike props 1_750




2 responses to “People do not like to live in a spiceless city – Gil Penalosa”

  1. Samantha Avatar

    Marvelous. You know it’s exactly what is needed. Penalosa pretty much broke down what needs to happen, now , make a plan, Brampton and Mississauga! Three things: Physical barriers for the bike lanes, whatever they may be (not just painted lines). Places to PARK BIKES–people on bikes and on foot are shoppers-cars don’t shop!, and CONNECTED NETWORK. This idiocy of the odd bike lane that stops is so silly. Once the network is connected, Penalosa showed, people DO use it. Even here! So let’s just make this happen!

    1. Dayle Laing Avatar
      Dayle Laing

      Samantha, you are quite right on the 3 priorities laid out by Mr. Penalosa. The old adage of “build it and they will come” applies to a network of bike lanes. We are in an excellent position to quiz our local political candidates prior to the fall municipal election. Thank you for enjoying the article and commenting so thoughtfully.