My American readers, don’t fright. This is not happening in your country. Bogotá roads will have 1.6M less cars on the roads today. The only vehicles allowed on the roads are public and commercial use vehicles such as buses, lorries and ambulances.. To make sure there is no offender, the city has imposed a fine of just under COP 300,000, US$ 165, which is 15 times of the daily minimal wage. Ok, for a city that is well equipped with an adequate and efficient public transport system, and good and safe bike lanes, a day without your car is not that big of a deal. But here in Bogotá? It’s crazy. It translates into ‘disaster’.
I can understand how the cyclists would wake up today and say ‘WOW! Yes! Yay! Yahoo!’, given the 483 km of bike paths.. 4 new bicycle parks of 202 bicycle parking spaces will also be installed today for the benefits of the additional flux of cyclists in the city (my immediate thought – the police stations had better be prepared for an increase of bike loss incidents..).
But to those who have a longer distance to commute (it is not uncommon for people to live at least 10 km away from their workplace in this city), or those who don’t have bicycles, or those who simply can’t ride a bike (for example, I am one those who can’t ride in a straight line and is constantly at risk of losing control of my bike and swerving onto the vehicle or human being next to me..), they have to tackle the dangerous busetas or Transmilenio and hope that they will not get robbed. Or they will have to be waiting for 30 minutes for a taxi.
By introducing this initiative the city hopes to improve its air quality. The question is, what impact would ‘a day without only private cars for 13 hours’ make on the environment? One day without private cars is less than 0.3% of a year. It is going to generate more chaos than benefits!
Although the city has increasingly more experts in transportation, urban planning and its citizen’s mobility, and has paid more attention to improving the public transportation system, car ownership has more than doubled since the first ‘no car day’ 13 years ago, from 665,600 to 1,590,000, even though the population has grown only from 6M to 7.5M.. The increased car ownership is driven by economic growth and the rise of middle class. However, the 2-fold increase in car ownership also shows that the public transport system still has room for improvement in terms of capacity, physical reach and public awareness..