Archive for the 'Diseño Industrial' Category

Meguru Japanese Electric Vehicle Is Made Out of Bamboo and Wood Pulp Paper

mayo 22, 2010

Meguru

BY Ariel
Schwartz

We’ve seen bamboo bikes and biodiesel-powered bamboo taxis, but this EV is the first we’ve seen that makes use of the fast-growing plant. Meguru, a rickshaw-like EV developed by Japanese companies Yodogawa and Kinki Knives Industries, features an iron body coated in lacquer, a fan-shaped paper door, and bamboo flooring.
Meguru doesn’t exactly look highway-ready, but that’s not the point–the Japanese culture-inspired touches are meant to attract customers in more “traditional” towns like Nara and Kyoto. The car has a top speed of 25 mph and a range of 25 miles, so it can’t go very far anyway. Eventually, Meguru is expected to go on sale in Japan for approximately $10,000.
We love the idea of using indigenous materials in vehicles, and bamboo in particular is almost endlessly renewable. While it isn’t the safest idea to use bamboo in vehicle body, Meguru’s bamboo floor is both elegant and sustainable.
Crunchgear points us to this video of Meguru in action.

Fuente: Fast Company

Anuncios

Richard Moreta: “Smart Design” en la reconstrucción de Haití

abril 12, 2010

Invitamos a participar en la conferencia “Smart Design“, que dictará este próximo viernes 16 a las 7 pm el Arq. Richard Moreta, como una actividad especial del Centro de Estudios de la Arquitectura, el Urbanismo y el Hábitat, CEDARQ/ FUNGLODE.

Reservaciones con la Srta. Esmelda Abreu al 809 685 9966.

Una bici que produce energía solar y eólica diseñada en Singapur

marzo 21, 2009

Por ALMUDENA MARTÍN

La bici permite no gastar energía contaminante en vehículos a motor, pero también podría servir para generar ella misma electricidad ‘limpia’, incluso parada. Ésta es una de las ideas que ha llevado a dos diseñadores de Singapur a dibujar sobre el papel una bici que produce energía solar y eólica. Este invento constituye el eje central de un sistema, bautizado como EHITS (“Energy Harvesting Intermode Transport System”), que también cuenta con estaciones o portales de energía autónomos conectados a la red eléctrica y donde se aparcan las bicicletas.

bici

Ben Lai y Cedrid Ng

“La bici tiene un panel solar acoplado al cuadro y cuenta con dos ruedas de rotor de disco sin maza (‘hubless wheel’) en las que van colocados dos generadores eólicos”, explican los diseñadores Ben Lai y Cedrid Ng, “además el vehículo lleva una batería donde acumula la energía que después inyectará a la red eléctrica a través de un dispositivo de acople que hay cerca de los pedales y que sirve para conectarse a las estaciones de energía”.

No se trata de una bicicleta eléctrica (aunque sí necesita una pequeña cantidad de energía para el funcionamiento de pequeños dispositivos, como son el identificador de seguridad por radiofrecuencia y el GPS adosado al manillar), sino más bien de pequeñas centrales eléctricas que funcionan tanto en movimiento como, sobre todo, cuando están paradas.

La cantidad de electricidad producida por cada una de ellas no es mucha. Pero este concepto resulta especialmente interesante ahora que proliferan los sistemas de préstamo público de bicicletas en muchas ciudades. Un ejemplo: el ‘Bicing’ de Barcelona prevé tener este año cerca de 6.000 bicis repartidas por toda la ciudad.

Ben y Cedrid, de 28 y 30 años respectivamente, tienen muy claro su proyecto: “todo el sistema está pensado para que cada portal de energía esté conectado a la red eléctrica general, aunque también existe la posibilidad de acoplar cada estación a una aplicación concreta, como por ejemplo, una farola, un panel electrónico, un anuncio electrónico de una parada de autobús o incluso puede servir como punto de recarga para un medio de transporte eléctrico”.

Esto es posible gracias a que las estaciones están diseñadas por módulos, lo que también permite que se puedan aparcar juntas varias bicicletas. Lo cierto es que cada portal es en sí un generador de energía solar (ya que cuenta con placas solares), pero cuando le acoplamos la bicicleta, “se une una nueva fuente de generación de energía y la producción se duplica”.

Cuando preguntamos a Ben y a Cedrid cómo les surgió la idea de diseñar algo así, nos aseguran que todo empezó cuando se dieron cuenta de cómo el uso de la bici como transporte interurbano iba en aumento en muchas ciudades: “el hecho de ver cómo cada vez más gente se sube a la bici para moverse por la ciudad, nos hizo pensar en que ahora era un buen momento para diseñar un vehículo que, además de ser sostenible, pudiera integrarse en la infraestructura urbana”. Al mismo tiempo, añade Cedrid, “le dimos vueltas a cómo rediseñar el sistema de una ciudad para ganar eficiencia en términos de uso de energía”.

A partir de estas reflexiones, los dos diseñadores se pusieron manos a la obra para conseguir un modelo de sistema energético basado en un transporte urbano e independiente, donde tanto los proveedores de energía, como los usuarios y el medio ambiente salieran beneficiados. “Tanto si la bici está rodando, como si está aparcada, el vehículo está generando una energía que después se inyecta en la red eléctrica de la ciudad. Por una parte, el medio ambiente sale ganando al tratarse de una fuente limpia que no emite CO2, y por otra, el ciudadano está siendo partícipe de un estilo de vida más sostenible”, nos cuenta Ben.

Para sus creadores, este invento es todavía un diseño, pero “podría ser real y tener éxito en ciudades asiáticas —como China—, o en otras europeas —como Londres—, donde moverse en bici es muy habitual; aunque también hay que pensar en regiones costeras donde haya viento para aprovechar al máximo esta aplicación y Holanda sería un buen país donde comenzar”. ¿Realidad o ficción? tú que opinas.

soitu.es

TED: Tres deseos para cambiar el destino de la humanidad

febrero 7, 2009

1233927291_046670_fotonoticia_normal_0

Por FRANCIS PISANI (SOITU.ES)

Averiguar si existen los extraterrestres, interrumpir la destrucción de los océanos y salvar a los jóvenes venezolanos de la prostitución, la violencia y la droga son los desafíos a los que trata de enfrentarse este año la conferencia TED que está teniendo lugar en estos momentos en la ciudad californiana de Long Beach (podéis leer sobre ello en el post anterior).

La jornada ha estado marcada entre otras cosas por la presentación de robots cirujanos desarrollados por Catherine Mohr y su equipo en la Universidad de Stanford. Introduciendo por un único agujero un brazo ultra fino pero dotado de una cámara y de otras tres extremidades provistas de bisturís y pinzas, estos robots pueden paliar los daños que sufre el cuerpo con la cirugía convencional, y, bajo la dirección de un humano, operar incluso en el interior del corazón mismo.

También me impactó la sociedad proyectada por Shai Agassi, que pretende implantar el uso de vehículos eléctricos poniendo la infraestructura antes de lanzarlos al mercado. Separa la propiedad del vehículo de la de las baterías que necesita para circular y nos garantiza que las podremos cargar o reponer en estaciones de servicio capacitadas para ello en menos de lo que tardaríamos en llenar el depósito.

Pero todas las miradas de la jornada estaban puestas sobre todo sobre los tres galardonados del Premio TED del año. Se les ha invitado a a presentar sus proyectos y a formular en voz alta un deseo en el que poder implicar a los participantes para ayudarles a hacerlo realidad.

Jill Tatler, director del SETI Institute, se devana los sesos para descifrar los enigmas del espacio sideral y determinar si, de entre todos los sonidos inteligibles por el oído humano, algunos están lo suficientemente estructurados como para contener un mensaje.

Sylvia Earle, por su parte, ha consagrado su vida a salvaguardar los océanos e implora que la ayudemos a multiplicar las reservas marítimas. La destrucción que sufren avanza a un ritmo tan vertiginoso que teme que los próximos diez años sean tan determinantes como los 10.000 que ya han transcurrido. Nos pone sobre aviso: sin agua no hay vida; sin azul, tampoco verde.

El Sistema, la organización creada por José Antonio Abreu tiene como objetivo evitar que la juventud venezolana con escasos recursos caiga en la prostitución y la droga o incurra en la violencia valiéndose de la enseñanza de música clásica. 700.000 niños se han beneficiado ya de este aprendizaje y uno de sus protegidos acaba de ser nombrado jefe de orquesta en la filarmónica de Los Ángeles. Pide nuestro apoyo para lograr extender el modelo a Estados Unidos y el resto del mundo.

He aquí una conferencia a la que asiste gente de posición económica acomodada (6.000 dólares la acreditación) que se propone nada más y menos que cambiar el mundo y que recompensa a quienes se mueven para lograrlo.

Este talante tan a la “West Coast” me ha traído a la memoria a Shelby Coffey, jefe del Newseum de Washington. La gente de la Costa Este es más escéptica. Nos encontramos cerca de Silicon Valley “y de aquéllos que han demostrado que eran capaces de inventar lo imposible, lo que tan siquiera podíamos imaginar”.

Su espíritu empresarial impregna todo. Se limitan a tocar temas que no se prestan a la polémica, desde el calentamiento global hasta la necesidad de cambiar los sistemas educativos de arriba abajo. Y esta gente que tiende a creer que la tecnología es capaz de resolver la mayor parte de los problemas de la humanidad actúa y anda en muchas cosas.

¿Os sorprende acaso?

P. S.: Podéis seguir la conferencia en directo o en YouTube y leer los artículos de Boing Boing.

FUENTE: SOITU.ES

Soplan Vientos Mejores

febrero 5, 2009

imagen-41

imagen-42

imagen-43

imagen-45

From designboom

10 wind turbines

Good Design Awards 2008

noviembre 8, 2008

goodd2

Dwelling House [Mado no ie] by MUJI. net Co., Ltd

Jetman, Fussionman: Un Vuelo Histórico

septiembre 27, 2008

El piloto suizo Yves Rossy, llamado ‘Fusionman’, cruzó el viernes 26 de septiembre del 2008 (ayer) el Canal de la Mancha entre Calais (Francia) y Dover (Inglaterra), montado en un traje especial que incluye las alas y cuatro motores. Rossy saltó del avión desplegando el ala y efectuando una caída de unos 1.000 metros, antes de estabilizarse y tomar la dirección de Dover, en las costas inglesas. Después de un vuelo sin contratiempos a unos 200 km/h, que le llevó alrededor de diez minutos, aterrizó en Gran Bretaña ante la mirada atónita del público presente.

Ver +

Curry Stone Design Prize Announces Five Finalists

septiembre 6, 2008

The Curry Stone Design Prize recognizes exceptional designers based on individual merit and the potential to bring their ideas to fruition. The prize focuses on emerging design ideas that contribute to the vitality of the world community. These designs may improve the human spirit, increase awareness of the environment, or respond to an area of need, whether to provide shelter and clean water or address climate change and humanitarian crises.

Shawn Frayne, 27, inventor of the Windbelt, the world’s first non-turbine wind-powered generator. The technology, which is light enough to hold in your hand, has enormous potential to help people in poor communities power lamps, run small vaccine refrigerators and charge cell phones for pennies a day. Frayne was inspired to create the Windbelt after a visit to a village in Haiti where residents rely on costly kerosene and diesel for lack of an electrical grid.

Wes Janz, 55, architect and associate professor of architecture at Ball State University in Indiana and author of the forthcoming book, “One Small Project.” Janz’s practice focuses on “leftover places” – the world’s slums and settlements where people build shelters from scavenged materials – as sites of innovation and inspiration for architects committed to using their craft for social good. In collaboration with his students and local communities, Janz has constructed shelters and pavilions in Argentina, Sri Lanka and elsewhere from found materials such as mud and rubble from demolished buildings.

Lexington, KY, August 26, 2008—An architectural firm that builds homes from sandbags in the shantytowns of Cape Town, South Africa, the young inventor of the world’s first non-turbine wind-powered generator, and an Indiana-based university professor who builds shelters using scavenged materials are among the five finalists for the inaugural Curry Stone Design Prize. The winner will be announced Sept. 25, 2008 at the IdeaFestival in Louisville, KY.
The Curry Stone Design Prize, administered by the University of Kentucky College of Design, is awarded every year to breakthrough design solutions with the power and potential to improve our lives and the world we live in. Jurors for this year’s prize are journalist John Hockenberry, internationally acclaimed architect David Adjaye, designer Renny Ramakers; prize founder Clifford Curry; and Michael Speaks, international design scholar and dean of University of Kentucky’s College of Design.

“The prize finalists selected this year personify the spirit of ingenuity and resourcefulness that designers can bring to solving the world’s most formidable challenges,” said David Mohney, Prize Secretary and Curry Stone Chair in Design at the University of Kentucky. The prize winner receives an award of $100,000; up to four finalists receive $10,000 each. Finalists are selected from a pool of nominees submitted by leaders from the architecture and design communities.

The prize finalists, who will be officially unveiled on Sept. 13, 2008 at the 11th International Venice Architecture Biennale are:

Shawn Frayne, 27, inventor of the Windbelt

Wes Janz, 55, architect

MMA Architects, whose principals, Luyanda Mpahlwa, 49, and Mphethi Morojele 45, are reshaping South Africa’s post-apartheid architectural landscape

Marjetica Potrč, 55, artist and architect

Antonio Scarponi, 34, architect

leer +

Fuente: bustler

One Laptop per Child undergoes final beta version

julio 23, 2007

by Dawn Kawamoto
The $100-laptop project for children in emerging nations is headed toward the finish line.

928laptop550x413.jpg
928100laptop550x435.jpg

928morph550x4131.jpg

928instructions550x413.jpg


The One Laptop per Child (OLPC)
non-profit organization announced Monday its final beta version for the XO laptop.

Beta-4 (B4) will undergo final testing over the next few weeks, then enter mass production in October. The OLPC expects to ship 3 million XO laptops to more than three emerging nations, as part of this initial order, an OLPC spokesman said.

The OLPC has been particularly busy these past few weeks, gearing up for its final beta version, as well as striking a peace accord with Intel. Intel is joining the OLPC board and may serve as a potential supplier to the project.

Currently, AMD is supplying its Geode LX-700 chips to the XO laptop. Other components include 256MB of memory and 1GB of NAND flash, as well as a system designed to offer a fully readable display in bright sunlight, and durability to withstand water, dust clouds and a drop from as high as five feet.

Fuente: NewsBlog-CNET News

Links: Nicholas Negroponte, MIT The Media Lab, OLPC

Bogota’s urban happiness movement

julio 10, 2007

From living hell to living well: A radical campaign to return streets from cars to people in Colombia’s largest city is now a model for the world

penalosa-enr07pvg002w.jpg

CHARLES MONTGOMERY

On a clear, cloudless afternoon, Enrique Peñalosa, former mayor of Bogota, leaves his office early in order to pick up his 10-year-old son from school. As usual, he wears his black leather shoes and pinstriped trousers. As usual, he is joined by his two pistol-packing bodyguards. And, as usual, he travels not in the armoured SUV typical of most public figures in Colombia, but on a knobby-tired mountain bike.

Mr. Peñalosa pedals through the streets of Santa Barbara in Bogota’s well-to-do north side. He jumps curbs and potholes, riding one-handed, weaving across the pavement, barking into his cellphone with barely a thought for the city’s notoriously aggressive drivers.

On most days, this would be a radical and perhaps suicidal act. But today is special.

Ever since citizens voted to make it an annual affair in 2000, private cars have been banned entirely from this city of nearly eight million every Feb. 1. On Dia Sin Carro, Car Free Day, the roar of traffic subsides and the toxic haze thins. Buses are jam-packed and taxis hard to come by, but hundreds of thousands of people have followed Mr. Peñalosa’s example and hit the streets under their own steam.

“This is a learning experiment! We are realizing that we can live without cars!” Mr. Peñalosa bellows as he cruises across the southbound lanes of Avenida 19, pausing on the wide, park-like median. A flock of young women rolls up the median’s bike path, shouting, “Mayor! Mayor!” though it has been six years since Mr. Peñalosa left office (consecutive terms are constitutionally banned in Bogota) and he has only just begun his campaign to regain the mayor’s seat.

Car Free Day is just one of the ways that Mr. Peñalosa helped to transform a city once infamous for narco-terrorism, pollution and chaos into a globally lauded model of livability and urban renewal. His ideas are being adopted in cities across the developing world. They are also being championed by planners and politicians in North America, where Mr. Peñalosa has reinvigorated the debate about public space once championed by Jane Jacobs.

His policies may resemble environmentalism, but they are no such thing. Rather, they were driven by his conversion to hedonics, an economic philosophy whose proponents focus on fostering not economic growth but human happiness.

Proponents of hedonics, or happiness economics, have been gaining influence. London School of Economics professor Richard Layard, who wrote the seminal Happiness: Lessons from a New Science, was an adviser to Tony Blair’s first Labour government. Prof. Layard asserts that, contrary to the guiding principle of a century of economists, income is a poor measure of happiness. Economic growth in England and the U.S. in the past half-century hasn’t measurably increased life satisfaction.

So what makes societies happy? The past decade has seen an explosion in research aiming to answer that question, and there’s good news for people in places like Bogota: Feelings of well-being are determined as much by status and social connectedness as by income. Richer people are happier than poor people, but societies with wider income gaps are less happy on the whole. People who interact more with friends, family and neighbours are happier than those who don’t.

And what makes people most unhappy? Not work, but commuting to work.

These are the concepts that guided Mr. Peñalosa’s car-bashing campaign.

“There are a few things we can agree on about happiness,” he says. “You need to fulfill your potential as a human being. You need to walk. You need to be with other people. Most of all, you need to not feel inferior. When you talk about these things, designing a city can be a very powerful means to generate happiness.”

In the mid-1990s, Bogota was, citizens recall, un enfierno – a living hell. There were 3,363 murders in 1995 and nearly 1,400 traffic deaths. The city suffered from the cumulative effects of decades of civil war, but also from explosive population growth and a dearth of planning. Wealthy residents fenced off their local public parks. Drivers appropriated sidewalk space to park cars. The air rivalled Mexico City’s for pollution. Workers from the squalid shanties on the city’s south end spent as much as four hours every day commuting to and from Bogota’s wealthy north.

In 1997, a study by the Japanese International Co-operation Agency prescribed a vast network of elevated freeways to ease Bogota’s congestion. Like cities across the Third World, Bogota was looking to North American suburbs as a development model, even though only 20 per cent of people owned cars.

The tide changed with Mr. Peñalosa’s election in 1998.

“A city can be friendly to people or it can be friendly to cars, but it can’t be both,” the new mayor announced. He shelved the highway plans and poured the billions saved into parks, schools, libraries, bike routes and the world’s longest “pedestrian freeway.”

He increased gas taxes and prohibited car owners from driving during rush hour more than three times per week. He also handed over prime space on the city’s main arteries to the Transmilenio, a bus rapid-transit system based on that of Curitiba, Brazil.

Bogotans almost impeached their new mayor. Business owners were outraged. Yet by the end of his three-year term, Mr. Peñalosa was immensely popular and his reforms were being lauded for making Bogota remarkably fairer, more tolerable and more efficient.

Moreover, by shifting the budget away from private cars, Mr. Peñalosa was able to boost school enrolment by 30 per cent, build 1,200 parks, revitalize the core of the city and provide running water to hundreds of thousands of poor.

The shift was all the more radical in that it was not motivated by the populist socialism that has swept much of Latin America. Mr. Peñalosa, the son of a Colombian politician and businessman, studied economics at North Carolina’s Duke University. His first book shouted Capitalism: The Best Option. Yet even as he worked as a business management consultant, and later an economic adviser to the Colombian government, he began having doubts.

“I realized that we in the Third World are not going to catch up to the developed countries for two or three hundred years,” he recalls. “If we defined our success just in terms of income per capita, we would have to accept ourselves as second- or third-rate societies – as a bunch of losers – which is not exactly enticing for our young people. So we are forced to find another measure of success. I think the only real obvious measure of success is happiness.”

HAPPIER TOGETHER

Mr. Peñalosa offers an eager “ Como le va?” – how’s it going – to a pair of dust-caked labourers cruising past on the bike path. He is clearly campaigning: Every commute is a chance to remind Bogotans that their bike routes were his idea, and their parks his doing. But he is also a preacher spreading the word.

“See those guys? Before, cyclists were seen as just a nuisance. They were the poorest of the poor,” he says. “Now, they have respect. So bikeways are important … [because] they show that a citizen on a $30 bike is equally important to someone driving in a $30,000 car.”

This principle of equity led him to hand road space over to public transit and pedestrian areas – a way of making private space public again.

University of British Columbia professor emeritus John Helliwell, who studies economics and human well-being, sees added value in such measures. “When you get data on people’s life satisfaction, and you try and explain the differences, the variables that jump right out at you relate to the trustworthiness of the environment that people are living in. How much can they trust strangers? How well can they trust people in the neighbourhood? How trustworthy are the police? The more positive answers people give on these questions, the happier they are,” Prof. Helliwell says.

“So what do you need to do to establish these higher levels of trust? It turns out that frequency of positive interaction is the key.”

Public spaces that bring people together in congenial activity produce happier citizens than those – like traffic jams – that spur animosity and aggression, Prof. Helliwell says.

By linking the economics of happiness to urban design, Mr. Peñalosa really does seem to have made Bogotans happier. The murder rate fell by an astounding 40 per cent during his term and has continued to fall ever since. So have the number of traffic deaths. Traffic moves three times faster now during rush hour. And the changes seem to have transformed how people feel.

“The perception of the city has changed,” says Ricardo Montezuma, an urbanist at the National University of Colombia. “Twelve years ago, 80 per cent of us were completely pessimistic about our future. Now, it’s the opposite. Most of us are optimistic,” he says, referring to Gallup polls.

“Why is this important? Because in a big way a city is really just the sum of what people think about it. The city is a subjective thing.”

Bogotans don’t give Mr. Peñalosa all the credit. Every Sunday since the 1970s, Bogota has blocked off its major roads so that citizens can jog, walk or bike in safety. These ciclovia days transform the avenidas into vast, linear parks, where more than two million Bogotans come to play, picnic, do aerobics and eat sweet arepa bread from mobile vendors. A generation has grown up knowing streets can change.

But people have changed too. Mr. Peñalosa’s unorthodox predecessor, Antanus Mockus, is credited with building a new culture of citizenship. The former philosophy professor hired mimes to make fun of bad drivers. He sent actors dressed as monks into the streets to encourage people to think about noise pollution. He gave out thousands of coloured cards – the kind referees use in soccer games – so people could express their disproval of others’ driving.

Mr. Mockus convinced Bogotans it was their duty to take care of each other. Inspired by his anti-corruption campaign and message of citizenship, 63,000 families volunteered to pay 10 per cent more than their assessed property tax. By the end of his term, tax revenues had tripled.

He had prepared Bogotans for Mr. Peñalosa’s infrastructure changes, which required people to make sacrifices for the general good.

The best place to see these ideas translated into urban design is Bogota’s hardscrabble south side, where about 80,000 migrants – mostly refugees from Colombia’s civil war – arrive seeking shelter every year. Few of the streets are paved here, but a pedestrian-only avenue intersects the red brick slums of Ciudad de Cali.

This is where 19-year-old Fabien Gonzales joins the commuting throng just after sunrise en route to his job as a cashier at the Home Center on Bogota’s north end. Mr. Gonzales takes home about $238 a month and, like most of his neighbours, uses feet, bike and bus to get to work.

He cruises down one of Mr. Peñalosa’s ciclorutas on a silver mountain bike, to the Portal de las Americas, a transportation hub linking bike paths and pedestrian roads with the Transmilenio rapid-bus network. The station is surrounded by broad plazas and lawns, where people linger over hot chocolate as the sun creeps up over the Andes.

He locks his bike and pushes onto a northbound express. “Before the Transmilenio,” he says, “I had to leave home two hours before starting work. Now, it takes me 45 minutes.”

The Transmilenio is a distillation of Mr. Peñalosa’s philosophy on well-being. It also happens to turn everything most North Americans think about transit on its head. It functions much like an urban metro, combining stylish stations, fast boarding and express routes. It moves more people than many urban rail-transit systems for a small fraction of the construction cost.

“Many cities talk about building transit. We didn’t want a transit project, but a mobility project. We wanted to move people,” says Angelica Castro Rodriguez, general manager of the public-private alliance that runs the service.

The Transmilenio also reduces Bogota’s carbon dioxide emissions by nearly 250,000 tons a year. It’s the first transport system to be accredited under Kyoto’s Clean Development Plan.

But for Mr. Peñalosa, the key is that it seizes road space from other vehicles. “We are constructing democracy with our bus system. Remember, 80 per cent of Bogotans don’t own cars. For them, every day is car-free day. This busway, unlike a subway, shows that public transport has priority over private interests.”

Every week, Bogota hosts delegations from cities around the world looking for solutions to their growing pains.

“Before Peñalosa, mayors were terrified to take on the issue of auto-dominated public space, for fear that motorists would rebel politically,” says Walter Hook of New York’s Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP).

“But he not only challenged auto dependency, he succeeded politically. He’s given other politicians the courage to follow. And other mayors have realized that they can’t build their way out of congestion.”

The ITDP now funds Mr. Peñalosa’s efforts to bring his post-car message around the world. Jakarta, Beijing and Mexico City have handed over road space to bus rapid-transit systems and more are being built in Delhi, Seoul and Johannesburg.

PEDESTRIAN BROADWAY?

Mr. Peñalosa’s solutions may work in the developing world, but is North America ready for his happy revolution?

Consider the advice he gave to planners in Los Angeles last year: Let traffic and congestion become so unbearable that drivers voluntarily abandon their car habits. And when Manhattan held a conference in October asking for a prescription for the gridlocked streets of New York, Mr. Peñalosa cheerily suggested banning cars entirely from Broadway.

“He got a standing ovation,” observed an astounded Deputy Borough President Rose Pierre-Louis. New York is now considering charging drivers to enter Manhattan.

Mr. Peñalosa was also given a hero’s welcome by hundreds of cheering urbanists, planners and politicians at last summer’s World Urban Forum in Vancouver. Stuart Ramsey, a B.C. transportation engineer, suggested it was because the Colombian had gone ahead and done what they had all been talking about for years.

“Bogota has demonstrated that it is possible to make dramatic change to how we move around in our cities in a very short time frame,” Mr. Ramsey said afterward. “It’s simply a matter of choosing to do so.

“We could improve our air quality and dramatically reduce our emissions any time we want. It’s easy to do. All it would take is a can of paint and you’d have dedicated bus lanes. It doesn’t require huge amounts of money. It simply requires a choice.”

The fact that the people who plan and build the world’s urban areas should applaud an attack on private cars suggests that cities may be on the verge of a massive change. Yet Mr. Peñalosa points out that North American cities may face a much bigger challenge than poor cities like Bogota. For one thing, we have already spent billions wrapping ourselves in freeways.

“Transportation is a problem that gets worse the richer societies become,” he says. “The 20th century was a disaster for cities. And the most dynamic economies produced the worst cities of all. I’m talking about the U.S. of course – Atlanta, Phoenix, Miami, cities totally dominated by private cars.”

In Canada, commuters are discovering that the highways that brought us suburbia are no longer getting us to work so quickly. From 1992 to 2005, the average commute time in Canadian cities rose to 63 minutes from 54.

This is bad news for happiness. Recent studies on life satisfaction show that commuting makes people more unhappy than anything else in life. (It is, apparently, the opposite of sex.) Commuting also happens to rob us of time for family and friends.

In a 2004 study of German commuters, psychologists found that the longer people spent getting to work, the lower their general life satisfaction tended to be. The malaise brought on by commuting was not being balanced by work satisfaction or higher income.

If commuting makes us so unhappy, why do North Americans keep buying houses in distant suburbs? Harvard University psychologist Daniel Gilbert suggests that it is because humans are just not very good at predicting what will make us happy.

“When we make predictions about happiness, we typically fail to consider adaptation – the process by which the brain gets used to things,” explains Prof. Gilbert, author of Stumbling on Happiness. “It is much easier to adapt to things that stay constant than to things that change.

“So we adapt quickly to the joy of a larger house in the suburbs because the house is exactly the same size every time we come in the front door. But we find it difficult to adapt to commuting by car because every day is a slightly new form of misery, with different people honking at us, different intersections jammed with accidents, different problems with weather, and so on.”

So the misery of the long commute will almost always trump the happiness of that spacious den, Prof. Gilbert says.

The only major Canadian city where commute times didn’t shoot up in the past decade was freeway-free Vancouver, where the city stopped adding road capacity in 1997 and has been aggressively “traffic-calming” ever since.

Thanks to the city’s decision to develop dense new neighbourhoods near the downtown core, almost two-thirds of journeys made around downtown are done on foot, by bike or on transit. Aside from cutting carbon emissions, this kind of commuting also boosts feelings of connectedness and public trust, according to UBC’s Prof. Helliwell.

In terms of happiness, then, Canada’s big-city mayors are on track when they press the federal government for a national transit strategy. But Bogota suggests the secret may lie not in the megaprojects favoured by ribbon-cutting politicians, but in cheaper options that move more people.

The Toronto Transit Commission wasn’t crazy about Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s announcement of an 8.7-kilometre extension of the Spadina subway line, for example, because the same $2-billion could have bought 47 km of light-rail line instead.

Still, Bogotans are not necessarily better than Canadians at predicting what will make them happy. In 1996, when traffic congestion was considered the city’s biggest problem, they voted against auto restrictions. It took courage – and, some say, arrogance – for Mr. Peñalosa to ignore the polls.

By 2001, the measures and the mayor were wildly popular. Citizens voted to ban cars entirely during rush hour by 2015. And if, as polls suggest, they re-elect Mr. Peñalosa this October, the war on cars will escalate.

“We’re lucky in the developing world,” Mr. Peñalosa says as we roll up to his son’s school. “We haven’t had the money to build all those freeways. We are growing quickly, but we still have a chance to build our cities properly, to avoid the mistakes made in North America.”

Children pour out of the school’s iron gates, Mr. Peñalosa’s own son, Martin, among them. The boy carries a helmet and wheels a miniature version of his father’s bike. The two wobble their way along Avenida 19’s cicloruta, veering into the grass on either side of the path.

The median feels like a park, filled with children, suited businessmen, fast-food cashiers, the wealthy and the poor, strolling or rolling home together. On the whole, they do seem quite happy.

The scene reflects the city, a place that is more than the sum of its concrete, more than a set of efficiencies to maximize and so much more than a machine for creating wealth. It is, Mr. Peñalosa says, a means to a way of life.

Fuente: The Globe and Mail