Speaker to stress importance of biking, walking

Charles Oliver charlesoliver@daltoncitizen.com
The word “ciclovia” may not be in the vocabulary of many Daltonians, but Gil Peñalosa may change that.

Peñalosa is executive director of 8-80 Cities, a Canadian group that promotes walking and bicycling and advocates trails and greenways for walkers and cyclists. He’ll be talking about the important of walking and biking at Dalton City Hall at 6 p.m. on Feb. 1. The presentation, which is open to the public, is sponsored by Bike! Walk! Northwest Georgia, the Northwest Georgia Regional Commission and the Georgia Department of Transportation. It will be conducted in both English and Spanish.

Peñalosa is the former commissioner of parks, sports and recreation in Bogota, Colombia, where he advocated “ciclovias,” which are dedicated paths for bicycles or streets that have been closed to automobile traffic. He also pioneered car-free Sunday, which now has more than 1.3 million people walking, cycling or skating along 1.3 kilometers of Bogota’s streets.

Dalton City Administrator Ty Ross said city officials had requested that the regional commission bring Peñalosa after he and Brookwood Elementary School Principal Will Esters saw him speak in Chattanooga.

“We are such an automobile-driven culture, but getting out of your car and walking or bicycling isn’t strange,” Ross said.

Peñalosa will be talking the benefits of ciclovias, how other communities across the world have used them and how they can improve a city’s quality of life.

“He’s really about community organizing and improving a community’s views on public spaces,” Esters said.

Brookwood officials are already encouraging students to walk to school with their parents.

“We do what we call ‘Walk to school Wednesdays,’” Esters said. “It’s an opportunity to build relationships more than anything else. If you are in the front seat of your car, and the kids are in back, and the radio is on, there’s not a whole lot of opportunity for conversation. When you are walking with your children and holding their hands, and they are looking at the acorns on the side of the road or asking you about a worm they see or asking what kind of bird is that, there’s more opportunities for interaction with your child. The whole idea is to slow down a little bit and enjoy each other’s presence.”

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