If you spend more than an hour with me, you quickly learn that I am a transportation nerd. Even when I go on vacation, I cannot stop myself from observing how people move. In July 2016, I traveled to Colombia with a DC-based church for a mission trip. I traveled to Colombia a few days earlier than the rest of the team because I wanted to see Mio, the public transportation system in Cali. Yes, my entire purpose for going to Cali was to see public transportation.
My first day in Cali, I set out on foot to find Mio. As I was walking down the street, I noticed a ten story mural. I did not want to stop and look, because I was on a mission to get to Mio. Eventually, I navigated my way to the main Mio route. When I saw the route, I witness that Mio does not operate in a bus lane. It operates in A BUS STREET. There was an entire street dedicated to the bus in a relatively narrow street curb to curb. I was as emotional as a five-year-old seeing Mickey Mouse for the first time.
The challenge of Mio is that the ridership is so high, every bus was stuffed to the gills. Even though I came to Cali to experience the public transportation system first hand, when the bus doors opened and I was faced with the mass of people, I decided to pass. I do not do well in overcrowded situations. With my plans to ride foiled, I walked back to the ten story mural.
After taking in the mural and all of its intricate details, I noticed another one not far away. I started walking toward the second mural. Then I noticed more. Needless to say I ended up on an adventure around the city to find the murals, which people in Cali call graffiti. I explored Cali by foot for several hours hunting for murals. Here are some of my favorites:
After getting back to my hotel, the experience reminded me about the importance of public art in cities. Murals, sculptures, and other forms of public art create a sense of place that, in supporting the community’s creativity, encourages walkability. In the Ten Principles for Building Healthy Places, the Urban Land Institute found public art slows cars and make streets more attractive for shoppers and pedestrians. Other places can follow Cali’s example of encouraging murals as a tool for encouraging walking.
Veronica O. Davis, PE is a transportation guru who uses her knowledge to spark progressive social change. As Co-owner and Principal of Nspiregreen, she is also responsible for the management of the major urban planning functions such as transportation planning, policy development, master planning, sustainability analysis, and long range planning. In July 2012, Veronica was recognized as a Champion of Change by the White House for her professional accomplishments and community advocacy, which includes co-founding Black Women Bike.