Thursday, October 30, 2014

Gil Penalosa inspires SWFL officials and advocates at FTPA conference

 Tuesday was an inspiring day for complete streets advocates in SWFL.  Check out the short TED video of Gil Penalosa and you, too, will be inspired.
Jenn Hagen and Diana Giraldo with Gil

 On Oct. 28th about two dozen SWFL officials and advocates attended Gil Penalosa's inspiring keynote address at the statewide Florida Public Transportation Association annual conference in Naples.   In attendance was Bonita Springs Mayor, Ben Nelson; Bonita Springs City Councilwoman Janet Martin; and Fort Myers City Council member Forrest Banks. 
Gil spends time with advocates after meeting
Transportation and sustainability staff from both Bonita Springs and Collier County were there, along with the Lee and Collier County transit directors, Collier County MPO Director, four representatives from BikeWalkLee, and several people working on the Streets Alive event coming to the City of Fort Myers on Nov. 2nd. 

In addition, FDOT District 1 Secretary, Billy Hattaway was there along with a full contingent of FDOT staff who are working on complete streets and transportation transformation in District 1.  Not only did he inspire us with his speech, he spent 30 minutes after the presentation talking to a team of us about some of our specific issues, which was very helpful.

Jenn Hagen (Bonita), Billy Hattaway, and Councilwoman Martin

 Project for Public Places describes Gil Peñalosa as "the world’s most passionate and well-traveled promoter of Streets as Places—putting people before cars in some of the most important public spaces in cities worldwide.  As Executive Director of 8-80 Cities, Gil now travels the world, working on the front lines of change, and collaborating with leading Placemaking advocates, practitioners and politicians to build a collective movement to transform cities around people. His story, his experience and his message are a central thread to how cities need to change in this century."  See our earlier blog for more background.

Gil was introduced by FDOT District 1 Secretary, Billy Hattaway, who hailed his efforts and the importance of his ideas for Florida.  Gil's presentation, with lots of photos and stories, electrified the audience who gave him a standing ovation.   

There were several 'take away' messages for us:

  •       The question is, how would you like your community to be?

  •       These are political issues.
  •        Elected officials need to understand that change doesn't happen by consensus...they have to listen to the people, but they were elected to make decisions and to lead.

  •    What we need are champions for change...champions don't take no for an answer--they look for ways around the obstacles and barriers.  He described how NYC's Transportation Director, Janette Sadik-Khan, was a champion for change.
  • He argued for lower speeds on our streets and for a network of separated cycling facilities.

  •   He focused on two topics--sustainable mobility and public spaces....the goal is to create vibrant cities.
Mayor Nelson and Councilman Banks with FDOT officials
  •     The most important public policy of economic significance for individual households is to make it possible to downsize from two to one car.  Right now $1 of every $4 of household income is spent on transportation mobility!

·         He outlined five key ingredients for moving from talking to doing:
1.       develop a sense of urgency (building more roads to solve congestion is like pouring more gasoline on the fire)
2.       political will
3.       leadership
4.       "doers"
5.       public engagement

  •          He urged local officials to start by looking at what can be done this year...what is low cost, low risk, and high visibility.
    Trinity Scott (Collier transit) and Carmen Monroy (FDOT)

  •   He urged us to build alliances--transportation, planning, public health, schools, private sector...again bringing it back to the message:  creating a vibrant community is a political issue.

Although his 45 minute speech is not available on video, here's a 14 minute speech he gave on TED, which gives you a good flavor of his message and his energy. 

Report by Darla Letourneau

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