Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

Mobilizing Bogotá: The Local and Transnational Politics of Inter-City Policy Circulation

  • Author(s): Montero, Sergio
  • Advisor(s): Caldeira, Teresa
  • et al.
No data is associated with this publication.

In this dissertation, I critically examine the local and transnational actors, networks and agendas that allowed Bogotá (Colombia) to emerge as a world policy model of urban sustainable transport by analyzing the different ways in which Bogotá’s policies –particularly Transmilenio BRT and Ciclovía- were mobilized in Guadalajara (Mexico) and San Francisco (United States). Policy models are either celebrated as inspirational examples that can spur policy learning in many places at once or rejected as “one-size-fits-all” recipes that do not consider the complexity of local contexts. My dissertation departs from both arguments by demonstrating that although models and “best practices” can indeed be powerful catalyzers of policy change, practices of inter-city policy circulation inevitably take place in a local and transnational field of power in which different actors strategically mobilize other cities’ references to legitimize particular agendas and translate their beliefs about how the city should be organized into policy. In this dissertation I show that the wide circulation of Bogotá policies in the last decade reflects an increasing focus by the apparatus of international development on the circulation of city models as an arena to effect global impact, what I call the “leveraging cities” logic. Bogotá’s Transmilenio and Ciclovía are, then, part of a larger set of cost-effective, impact-oriented and financially-sustainable policy models promoted by international development banks and global philanthropy that seek to intervene in global climate change through their replication in as many cities as possible. Yet, the politics behind the global circulation of Bogotá policies are not about “coercion from above” but rather a politics of learning, persuasion and local coalition-building that takes place through a mobile infrastructure of policy circulation in the form of policy forums, study tours, best practices guides, images and videos. A careful and qualitative analysis of who organizes these events and objects and the practices of learning and persuasion that take place in and through them is key to understand the friction between global and urban agendas that underpinned the wide circulations of the Bogotá model since the early 2000s. To study transnational policy circuits and their effect on urban policy agendas and planning, I used a combination of methods that included archival research, participant observation and more than 90 interviews with mayors, planners, bicycle advocates, bus company owners, local NGO leaders, philanthropists and others in the many sites and situations where the Bogotá model took me during two years of fieldwork.

Main Content

This item is under embargo until May 14, 2020.