Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Creating Vibrant Cities: Talk with Gil Penalosa at the TN Bike Summit (04.24.15)

I was fortunate to be able to take part in some of the events of the Bike Summit this year and found Gil Penalosa’s speech both passionate and thought-provoking. His colorful use of language and real-world examples was well-received by the crowd and spoke of implementing positive change in communities and raising awareness about cyclists and pedestrians. He articulated several case studies and examples of data that fundamentally spoke to the lack of clarity about bicycle rights in an urban environment and outlined ways to alter this to be more inclusive and functional. He promoted the idea of making public spaces that could accommodate everyone (from age 8 to 80) and provided a wealth of information for how cities like Knoxville could benefit from very simple changes to how they design for cyclists.

As someone who once biked on streets in North Knoxville and downtown, I can testify that there was a lack of awareness and general annoyance with cyclists from those driving automobiles. I had several friends be seriously injured from bicycle accidents with drivers and have had things thrown at me from vehicles or have been yelled at. I am very excited about the implications of establishing a more open dialogue for discussion about how to improve this situation. As far as the environment is concerned, the improvements to public transit he mentioned and the many benefits of bicycles could be very transformative for a city like Knoxville.  I felt like his speaking engaged a wide variety of people and rallied the troops-- the passion he felt for revolution very clearly left all of us with a new sense of purpose and a great amount of information at our disposal. I hope to see some of his suggestions being utilized by the City of Knoxville, as I believe it will have far-reaching effects on our transportation and reliance on fuels in the future.

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