Living City: community mobilization to build active transport policies and programs in Santiago, Chile
27 Jan 2009
President, Living City, Master of Science in Planning and Community Development,\newline Centro de Urbanismo Ciudadano, Dominica 14, Santiago, Chile
Abstract. Although the usefulness of walking and cycling to promote health is increasingly recognized, the importance of civil society leadership in developing new policies and activities is often overlooked. This case study, of Living City (Ciudad Viva) a community-based organization in Santiago, Chile, examines how several communities used knowledge about transport's impact on the environment and health, gained through opposition to a major highway project, to build effective sustainable urban transport initiatives.
Inspired by urban reforms in Bogotá, Living City now focuses mainly on "active transport" (formerly non-motorized), building the policies, attitudes and infrastructure necessary to encourage walking and cycling, and the inclusion of the differently abled. It has won two major awards for innovation and now partners with NGOs in The Netherlands and elsewhere in Chile and Latin America.
Moreover, Living City now organizes cycling-inclusive training programs, design charrettes and participatory processes in cooperation with Santiago's regional and national authorities. Its publication, La Voz de La Chimba, distributed free throughout the city by volunteers, has helped to open people's eyes to the implications of active transport for social equality and health, and provided support to other citizens' initiatives, struggling to get off the ground.
This experience illustrates how citizens' and community organizations acquire important knowledge and practical experience in learning by doing situations, and how they can learn to reach out to ordinary people and key policymakers, building bridges across the citizen-policy divide to produce innovative, win-win programs that simultaneously bring change at micro- and macro-levels.