Día sin Coches en Bogotá XI : Carlosfelipe Pardo reporting live from the street on occasion of the city’s 11th Car Free Day

This just in from our fearless embedded reporter on the streets of Bogotá Día sin coches XI. Carlos refers in his email to the seminal project which kicked off the basic structure for organizing days without cars back in 1994 under the title “Thursday: A Breakthrough Strategy for Reducing Car Dependence in Cities” . Later Thursday provided a part of the blueprint for the first Car Free Day to be organized in Bogotá under the exceptional leadership of then-mayor Enrique Penalosa on the first Thursday of the new millennium. You can download Thursday here.

From: Pardo [mailto:deespacio@gmail.com]
Sent: Thursday, 03 February, 2011 12:45
To: eric britton
Subject: Your Thursday experiment

Hi Eric,

You may remember that today is the first Thursday in February, thus Bogotá’s Car Free Day by decree. I am traveling inside a 6-person-per-square-meter TransMilenio which should arrive on time for a conference where we will discuss the Integrated public transport system for this city – well overdue according to its original planning.

I see not many cars around, as would be expected. But yes, there are some cars riding after 6 am: armoured cars, diplomats and others with tainted windows, plus the occasional “regular” car. All of those who come out could be described as the symbol of this city’s inequity and inequality. Their lack of understanding of a measure or their absolute sovereignty over anybody else’s life is expressed thoroughly by their self-centeredness.

The city has recently reiterated its full-day Pico y Placa, by far the worst idea since torture, and just as unfair to the disadvantaged since it was extended from its original, less idiotic, peak-only structure to a full-day restriction. As many of us had warned the municipality, people have bought a second car to elude the restriction, effectively increasing congestion and emissions.

As it would obviously be the case, the recent extension of the full-day scheme has been supported strongly by he car industry, and this has been used as the principal argument from our incredibly short-sighted mayor.

As many citizens have told me this week, today is not a carfree day but an additional day of Pico y Placa (plate restriction). As others have interpreted it, we now have carfree days twice a week, though only for those who do not have the money to buy a second car.

Are we winning the war? At least the battle? Hopefully today’s experience of a carfree day established by decree will be more positive than negative and people understand its essence after 11 years of existence. I truly doubt it, and send this message as I get off the packed red bus that took me in record time to my destination. As we have learned here, in TransMilenio we trust.

(Written with my thumbs. Please excuse typos. Feel free to publish or forward)

Carlosfelipe Pardo
Slow Research – http://www.despacio.orghttp://www.slowresearch.org

# # #

(Editor’s note: Pico y Placa is a local variant of the braindead Odd/Even schemes to limit car access to the center: On Monday you can enter the central area only if you have a license plate ending with an even number, on Tuesday if it’s odd, etc. Originally as Carlos alludes, Pico y Placa was just about the best of these by and large awful public measures in the world. However as subsequent environmentally less committed political groups have come into power, they have succeeded in making it . . . worse!)

About the author:

Carlos Felipe Pardo is a psychologist interested in transport. Mainly, any strategy that reduces the dependence to car use and improves access of all population to affordable transport modes.  He has worked in urban transport issues in Asia and Latin America since 2002 in work that has involved organizational, advocacy and policy-related activities. He is Director of Slow Research, served as Country Director for the Institute for Transportation & Development Policy (ITDP) in Colombia and previously worked with a foundation in Bogotá as mobility coordinator and coordinated the GTZ Sustainable Urban Transport Project in Asia and Latin America. He can be reached at carlosfpardo@gmail.com

5 thoughts on “Día sin Coches en Bogotá XI : Carlosfelipe Pardo reporting live from the street on occasion of the city’s 11th Car Free Day

  1. Unfortunately, the Car-Free Day has lost its original purpose, which was to teach people how to get around without cars. Now, you hear no discussion about that. Radio callers complain about it being a pointless nuisance. In any case, I’m afraid that education won’t change many people’s behaviors – only self-interest will. Which is why they need economic incentives and disincentives to control car use.


  2. I have a couple of questions for Carlos and Eric:

    When exactly was Bogota’s decree on the 2015 peak-time car ban revoked? Is there a chance it could be reinstated?

    A second point I’d like to make concerns public transport quality. With regard to the model BRT systems of Bogota and Curitiba, I understand the most significant problem from a passenger perspective is significant all-day overcrowding. Have lessons been learned from this? Were budgetary constraints the principal problem, were demand forecasts inaccurate (was the system a victim of its own success) or is/was there simply an assumption that crowding is inevitable and acceptable to users? Gilbert (2008) reports that Transmilenio hasn’t reduced traffic problems: modal shift from the car (as oppposed to conventional buses) among higher income groups hasn’t happened thus far and cannot be expected to occur until overcrowding is addressed.

    More generally, I think that the public transport planning profession ignores service quality at its peril if it wishes to achieve lasting modal shift, whether this be in the context of dampening motorisation rates in transition economies or attempting to wean people out of ever more luxurious and affordable cars in the west. I like to think that public transport can and should ultimately become a default choice rather than a distress purchase in reaction to external factors (such as road congestion). We shouldn’t be blinkered by our own choices – I suspect many contributors to this forum live car-free or car-lite lifestyles for altruistic reasons. A pro-active approach to provide sufficient coverage, capacity and comfort is urgently required as part of a package of policies to reduce car use and ownership aspirations, as well as improve quality of life for captive PT users.



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