Tasmanian Times


Enrique Peñalosa (running Sunday to be President of Colombia) talks to Tasmanian Times

Ed: TT first published this interview on March 25, 2011. We are republishing it today because Enrique Peñalosa is running this Sunday to be President of Colombia in the presidential elections. He is the Green Party candidate. If no one gains 50% there will be a run off three weeks later.

Enrique Peñalosa, former ground breaking Mayor of Bogotá and re-founder of the Colombian Green Party, recently spoke at the Planning Institute of Australia National Congress, in Hobart. Few have achieved an urban transformation like that which began to take place in Bogotá under Peñalosa. Enrique took some time out to talk to Tassie Times.

Peñalosa argues that ´´the great city is not one that has highways, but one where a child on a tricycle or bicycle can go safely everywhere.´´ During his mayorship Peñalosa developed land banks for housing, a huge system of parks that include cycle ways and link to a co-developed system of libraries, the Transmilenio mass transit system (now the model for large cities) and other smaller projects that seamlessly combine social, environmental and economic improvement. In just ten years Bogotá has transformed from one of the world´s most dangerous and corrupt cities into a relatively peaceful city that many others are now trying to emulate.

The former mayor believes as humans we need to walk, to be around other people, beauty and nature. But above all, we need not to be excluded and to feel equality.

In 2009, with two other former Bogotá mayors, Peñalosa re-founded the Colombian Green Party. He explains that although they had been rivals, they were united by two things: they had all practiced clean politics in a country where vote buying and corruption is common; and they all placed a priority on equality and the construction of social justice.

Enrique explains that equality is much more than simply helping the poor, ´´Helping the poor could be giving them arms.´´ He and the other former mayors realised that the policies they were applying to construct social equality were often the same as green policies. The protected cycle network he began in the late nineties, which has now expanded to over five hundred kilometers, is more social policy than environmental policy. In addition to saving thousands of low income citizens ten to twenty percent of their wage due to riding to work, it also makes a powerful statement. ´´Someone on a $30 bicycle is as important as someone in a $30,000 car.´´

The same goes for footpaths and public transport. It is a powerful symbol of democracy and respect for human dignity, particularly in the developing world where most people don´t own a car, to restrict car use and give priority to public transport and pedestrians. The process helps to level the attention paid to high income and low income citizens.

Enrique tells me that most people think we achieve knowledge through reason, but that in fact we are much simpler than this and actually learn via symbols, rituals and ceremonies. This is why, says Enrique, it´s such a powerful symbol when affluent people are sitting in a traffic jam and a public bus zooms past in an exclusive lane.

He is adamant that more roads and parking leads to more cars and more traffic jams, and says that with the billions they saved in Bogotá by not investing in new road infrastructure, they have been able to invest heavily in schools, hospitals, libraries, parks and cycle ways. As a result of increasing these public services and the linkages between them, traffic problems have also lessened.


Whilst Enrique is a firm believer in the capitalist market and private investment he suggested that the market does not work when it comes to land around cities. Supply and demand excludes low income earners when land is limited. Lower income people get pushed to city outskirts and are disconnected from important services. Huge amounts of energy is wasted getting services in and waste out, not mention getting people in and out. Most residential urban land should be government owned in a land banking system, according to Enrique, which makes it much easier to have well-planned, connected housing in appropriate areas and with access to parks and services. There is obviously a huge potential energy saving and environmental benefit to this system.

Mindful that dramatic and rapid change, such as Enrique achieved in Bogotá, would be near impossible in Australia, I ask him how he overcame opposition and resistance to change. Whilst he concedes that mayors have more power and longer terms in Colombia and don´t as often need consensus within their council, as Australian mayors do, he believes the most important thing is to effectively and constantly communicate your vision. This means getting as many people as possible involved and getting a few initial projects done so people can live it and understand it, then we are one step closer to the critical mass that will break entrenched habits and rituals.

The Colombian Green Party is now represented in Congress and gained 31 percent of the vote in the 2010 Presidential Election only a year after forming. Enrique is running for Mayor of Bogotá again in the upcoming elections.

Author Credits: [show_post_categories parent="no" parentcategory="writers" show = "category" hyperlink="yes"]


  1. Leonard Colquhoun

    May 22, 2014 at 3:53 pm

    Re Comment 2’s recommendation about not being able to “solve the problems of tomorrow with the same thinking that created them today”: that should see off clericalism (particularly as in Islamism), fascism (or pseudo-fascism as in Third World military dictatorships), nationalism, and communism / marxism / socialism (excepting to some extent ALP / GB Labour socialism-lite).

    Note: ‘capitalism’ excluded, on the basis that it is less a way of theoretical thinking and more a way of practical doing. There will always be ‘markets’ of some sort, because that’s what people do, even when told not to, perhaps especially when told not to – even in the vigorously anti-capitalist USSR there were markets: one in getting political power & influence, and many others in the black markets.

  2. Christopher Purcell

    March 26, 2011 at 4:25 pm

    Sam Betts, #10. Just because I don’t have my name on a ballot paper as a candidate doesn’t mean that I don’t have a right to discuss the current lack of leadership in this State or country.
    And yes I agree with you; as I keep saying, we need to get more independent people like myself running as candidates so we have a real choice, not just a claytons’ choice of LibLab or LabLib.
    I look forward to seeing your name Sam on an upcoming ballot paper.

  3. Simon Higgs

    March 25, 2011 at 5:08 pm

    Re: Editors Note at #5. One problem when submitting readers comments, which considerably handicaps readers trying to substantiate claims they make in their comments, is the inability for TT readers comments to accept more than one http weblink within comment text.

    So it may seem to the editor that the reader making the comment has not provided sufficient justification from which the editor can verify claims made within the readers comment. Often that is only true because of this really awkward limitation on putting in more than one http weblink to relevant justification web resources.

    Editor’s note: thanks for that note – will investigate and see what can be done about it.

  4. phill Parsons

    March 25, 2011 at 10:02 am

    With a party system it is more likely that endorsed candidates will get elected. For ‘intelligent’ candidates to be elected you need voters can recognize and value such. And then how is the long term good determined except by a apckage of policies that a candidte is somewhat tied to that a majority support at an election.

    If we follow the travails of the price on Carbon we can see how a evidence based proposition supported by a majority of experts in the climate field who their peers accept as intelligent having passed through a sieve society accepts, tiertary eductaion, is supported to varying degrees depending on the shrillness of a few ill informed shock jocks and politicians seeking office.

    The bricks we’ve got are the the ones we have to build with even as we wish for thinner, brighter bricks.

  5. Sam Betts

    March 25, 2011 at 3:47 am

    “Unfortunately Tasmania doesn’t have any proper leaders & Australia has a severely limited number. ”
    I look forward to seeing your name on a Ballot Paper Christopher Purcell if you like you can do better. Easy really.

  6. mm

    March 24, 2011 at 3:07 pm

    I have heard Enrique Penalosa speak several times, he is one of the most inspiring and and beautiful speakers and leaders in the World.

    Unfortunately people of this calibre get lost in the fixed and self righteous mindsets of our elected representatives.

  7. Christopher Purcell

    March 24, 2011 at 10:24 am

    Yes, positive change that is good for the whole of society is brought about by leaders. Unfortunately Tasmania doesn’t have any proper leaders & Australia has a severely limited number.

  8. phill Parsons

    March 24, 2011 at 10:07 am

    Simple really. Instead of pandering to one lobby they took note of what was necessary to create the goals they had defined and made it happen.

  9. Simon Higgs

    March 24, 2011 at 9:45 am

    #1 – Would be a beautiful bird if the editorship and associates weren’t censoring readers comments based on personal political preference.

    Editor’s note: A small percentage of comments are deleted and some others edited to make sure they are compliant with the code of conduct. However, as As stated there “comments are not deleted because of the point of view expressed but they are because of how they are expressed.” TT also aims to cut the time moderating comments by publishing comments in their entirety or not at all. See http://oldtt.pixelkey.biz/index.php/pages/legalbits for more details on the code

  10. Michael Sellers

    March 24, 2011 at 9:30 am

    In Tasmania, usually it’s a public servant that is in the $30,000 car as dairy farmers for example certainly can’t afford such luxuries.

  11. Dana Frost

    March 24, 2011 at 9:27 am

    Wonderful breath of fresh air to have this kind of input – Thanks Tassie Times.

    “effectively and constantly communicate your vision”

    “getting a few initial projects done so people can live it and understand it”

    And that depth of understanding, that we live and change by symbols that sustain and inform our practical thinking.

  12. Philip Lowe

    March 24, 2011 at 9:18 am

    What was it?You cannot solve the problems of tomorrow with the the same thinking that created them today.Keep an open mind.

  13. Dave Groves

    March 24, 2011 at 5:59 am

    Different thinking becomes different actions which it seems have become a new way of life.

    TT worldwide….is there no end to the wings of this beautiful bird?

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