Last Thursday was “Day Without Cars” in the Colombian capital of Bogotá, and thoroughfares normally choked with gas-powered vehicles were taken over by a variety of alternative transportation methods, including bikes, scooters, skateboards, and wheelchairs. The once-a-year holiday, first held in 2000, bans private vehicles from the streets and is meant to encourage environmentally friendly travel and civic responsibility. Former mayor and avid cyclist Enrique Penalosa says that he didn’t want Bogotá to become like other urban areas: “Rather than cities with highways…they had come to resemble ‘highways with cities.'”
What’s the Big Idea?
Day Without Cars is one of several attempts to avoid that fate, along with additional restrictions on car traffic and the building of an extensive network of bike paths. However, despite these efforts, Bogotá has more cars and traffic than before. Blame for this is placed on population growth as well as poor planning; for example, the city’s mass transport system isn’t expanding fast enough, and the buses commuters currently use emit heavy black smoke. That said, one of the benefits of Day Without Cars was that those commutes were considerably shorter than normal.