Making cities livable for all ages

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Cedar Lake Trail
Minneapolis civil engineer Jack Yuzna on site at the Cedar Lake Trail phase three project. The trail is a one mile long biking and walking path that will connect the Cedar Lake trail with the Mississippi river parkway trail that runs through the North Loop and Warehouse districts of downtown Minneapolis.
File | MPR Photo/Dan Olson

Cities should be built in a way that allows everyone from age 8 to 80 to get around safely and independently. That's the concept of Canada-based 8 80 Cities, founded by former Bogota, Colombia Parks Commissioner Gil Penalosa. The 8 80 nonprofit promotes activities like walking and biking — and also public spaces like parks and trails.

The concept has strong support in the Twin Cities.

Events like Open Streets (the next one is this weekend along Nicollet Ave.) is a keystone element of being an 8 80 city. St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman has grouped efforts including the renovation of the Palace Theater and a downtown bicycle network in his city's 8 80 initiative:>

Finishing the running leg of the triathlon
A competitor in Wienerman Triathlon nears the end of her run in Luverne, Minn. during Hot Dog Night on July 17. The triathlon had the traditional running, biking and swimming components, but also included several eating challenges.
File | Jackson Forderer | For MPR News

Penalosa's interest in building 8 80 cities range from slowing down traffic, so people feel safer walking to the corner to buy milk; to separating bike and walking lanes to cyclists and pedestrians can live in harmony; to designing parks of the future with consideration to an aging population that doesn't have much use for a skate park or playground. Just adding a bench near the playground, Penalosa notes, will draw more seniors to parks.

As for one unique aspect of Twin Cities downtowns - Penalosa called the skyway systems "horrible," wishing during the interview for an earthquake that would only destroy the skyways. Yes, there's winter in Minnesota, Penalosa said. But "when we build a city around 15 horrible (winter) days, we mess up the other 350.

"So my advice is let's build a great city around the good days, and then even the other days won't be as bad."

Penalosa spoke at several events in the Twin Cities Thursday and also stopped by the MPR News studios to talk with host Tom Weber.

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