A comparative study of urban transport and city development in Copenhagen and Bogotá, 1940-2000

Andres Felipe Valderrama Pineda

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    This paper deals with the history of transportation, mobility and accessibility in two cities: Bogotá, Colombia and Copenhagen, Denmark. Throughout the second half of the 20th century both these highly concentrated cities have coped with the steady increase of car use and following that transportation issues dealing in one way or another with the difficult balance between private and public transportation. Especially the public arrangement of different forms of transportation (tram, bus, train, metro, BRT) has been the predominant issue. This paper examines the major discussions and non/decisions on transportation from the 1940s that shaped the layout, institutional structure and system of transportation in both these cities. The analysis also discusses the theoretical issues of systems, messy complexity, heterogeneity and multiplicity proposed by Thomas Hughes and others and furthermore it follows David Edgerton’s emphasis on use and maintenance rather than an innovation centred account of urban transport. Both these perspectives provide rich points of departure in an effort to reconsider the analytical artificial boundaries between technical development and maintenance, political discussions and policy practice, and institutional design and evolution. This paper concentrates in the history of the discussions on city transport of both cities during the 2nd half of the 20th century. In Bogotá, the important starting point was an initial plan for urban transport designed by Le Corbusier during the 1940s. In the post-war period his plan has been implemented and modified. One of the most important aspects of the modifications has been the efforts during the 1970s to suburbanize the city and provide more space for cars. Nonetheless, due to economic, political and planning reasons the city has remained a dense concentrated city and the balance between private and public transport is also the main issue currently. A similar but different tension between urban transport and urban planning can be seen in Copenhagen where the discussion, adoption and development of the five-finger-plan since the 1970s have determined the current layout of the city. This fact, coupled with the increase of car use, has led to a problem of congestion in the inner city. The discussion on priorities (private vs. public), is now the main political and technical issue, reflecting not only local concerns but also regional and global. The cases of Bogotá and Copenhagen will provide elements to discuss not just how the technical is shaped by the political, but more importantly, how the technical is in itself a material form of material politics and on-going and non-solved political “debate” focused on a non solved political tension. That is, the search for a beautiful urban environment is increasingly jeopardized by the beast of transportation. This research is based both on primary documentation (reports, studies, public announcements, internal communications, minutes of meetings both at the city council level but also of public transport authorities), and interviews.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication date2007
    Publication statusPublished - 2007
    EventThe International Committee for the History of Technology 34th Symposium - Copenhagen, Denmark
    Duration: 14 Aug 200719 Aug 2007
    Conference number: 34


    ConferenceThe International Committee for the History of Technology 34th Symposium


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