Bogota’s Mayor Gustavo Petro (L) rides his bike among other people during Car Free day in Bogota, Colombia, on Feb. 7, 2013. Residents of Bogota are asked not to use their cars in an attempt to reduce environmental pollution. (Luis Acosta/AFP/Getty Images)
With several main drags entirely closed off to vehicular traffic, mothers pushed baby carriages and nurses pushed wheel-chair-bound patients down the middle of what are normally car-packed and exhaust-choked avenues.
“Rather than once a year, I think we should do this once a month,” said Manuel Pulido, a Bogota psychologist who was touring the city aboard his mountain bike.
Yet Bogota’s car-free experiment, which began in 2000 to promote eco-friendlier forms of transport, also highlighted the challenges still facing this city of 8 million. Although there were 1.5 million fewer vehicles riding in Bogota Thursday, somehow many areas of the city were still plagued by traffic jams, noise and exhaust, thanks to thousands of taxis, buses and motorcycles and an antiquated grid of pot-holed streets.
“The Day without Cars is a nice way to promote civic responsibility,” said Eduardo Behrentz, an urban mobility expert at the University of the Andes in Bogota. “But it didn’t reduce air or noise pollution.”
The idea of car-free days first cropped up amid the 1973 Arab oil embargo. But it didn’t take hold until the 1990s when cities in Iceland, England and France put a limited version of the concept into practice.
But on Feb. 24, 2000, Bogota became the first city to restrict the use of private vehicles throughout an entire metropolis for a day.
Enrique Penalosa, an avid cyclist who was then Bogota’s mayor, was alarmed that the time lost in traffic jams was doubling every five years and that modern cities were being overwhelmed by mazes of congested highways. He vowed that Bogota would avoid the fate of other urban areas. Rather than cities with highways, he said, they had come to resemble “highways with cities.”
Under Penalosa and several subsequent mayors, Bogota has made some progress.
Bogota residents voted in 2000 to make the Day without Cars an annual event. To promote cycling, the city built 235 miles of bicycle paths. For the past three decades, officials have been closing off main drags on Sundays for bikers and joggers.
Driving is discouraged. A system based on the last number of a car’s license plates is used to restrict the driving of private vehicles during rush hour. A mass transit system called TransMilenio, which consists of high-capacity articulated buses that have their own lanes as well as feeder lines, has inspired similar bus networks in other cities.
But amid population growth, an economic boom and — in some cases — poor planning, the end result has been more traffic.
The bike paths, for example, are full of obstacles like electric polls, are disconnected from one another, and often come to an end before cyclists have finished their commute.
The license-plate restrictions, in turn, appear to be backfiring. To beat the system, many people have opted to buy two used cars rather than a new one. Some families, in which both the husband and wife work, have four cars. According to City Hall figures, the number of private cars in Bogota has jumped from 958,000 in 2009 to about 1.5 million today.
A similar car-buying spree occurred in Mexico City when officials there introduced license-plate restrictions. When Beijing city officials announced tight new restrictions on car ownership in 2010 in response to traffic jams, it led to a pre-emptive surge in vehicle sales ahead of the new law.
Although the TransMilenio system is expanding, it is still far too small to serve the 80 percent of Bogota commuters who use mass transit. Many still board a vast fleet of buses that often spew black diesel smoke.
More from GlobalPost: Colombia’s ghetto game-changer — an escalator
At one point on Thursday, police stopped 126 buses for inspection and 30 failed to pass gas emission standards. That helps explain why even on the Day without Cars, air quality in Bogota improved only slightly.
Several Bogota mayors have announced plans to build subways and electric trolley cars, but ground has yet to be broken. New roads have been built but they have failed to keep up with the surge in traffic. Meanwhile, some of the busiest avenues are rutted with potholes and clogged with illegally parked cars and impoverished recyclers who ply their trade in horse-drawn carts.
As a result, traffic moves through the city “with all the elegance of snails,” Vikhas Mehrotra, a University of Alberta professor, told the Freakonomics radio program in a recent episode dedicated to Bogota’s transportation gridlock.
Yet there were some small victories during the Day without Cars. Maria del Carmen Leon, a curbside vendor who sells cookies and candy on 15th Avenue, which was closed to all traffic, said it was a joy to work without the din of cars honking and buses backfiring.
Henry Ospino, an air-quality inspector driving an official City Hall van, noted that his usual 45-minute commute took just 15 minutes on Thursday. According to city officials, the speed of taxis and buses increased by 7 and 9 percent respectively.
Finally, the Day without Cars was a chance to promote staying off the streets altogether by working at home — which is still frowned upon at many Bogota companies. Pointing out that 4 million Bogotanos commute to work every day, Technology and Communications Minister Diego Molano said that telecommuting “would mean far less contamination and far more efficiency.”
Hi, Christine –
Nice seeing you, too.
I think the odds of many Keywasters, as a friend of mine labels we who live here, who own cars, trucks, mopeds (boy, do the 2-cycle ones stink up the place), shifting to bicycles are about the same odds as the city ridding Duval Street of bars, strip joints, lap dance parlors, whore houses, Harley-Davidsons and cruise ship passengers.
Certainly, for any such shift to bicycles to have a chance, the high city officials will have to take the role model lead, and city employees living on Key West or Stock Island, as opposed to Rockland or Big Coppit Key, or above there, should be required to use bicycles to get to work, unless they have city vehicles which are required to do their city jobs.
I see zero reason for city parking officers to have city cars to patrol Old Town. I imagine most code enforcement officers could get around on bicycles. I imagine closing lower Duval Street to motorized vehicles, except for delivery trucks, would cause a dramatic reduction in traffic congestion in Old Town.
When pigs fly does come to mind.
Probably the reason I brought bicycles up at Tuesday’s city commission meeting was to lampoon Tony Yaniz’s resolution declaring one day a week bicycle day, when I imagined few, if any, city employees in the meeting, had walked or ridden a bicycle to the meeting. Made for good political capital, I suppose, for Tony’s upcoming attempt to unseat Craig Cates. Every time I hear Tony speak at a city commission meeting, it sounds to me like he’s campaigning. Margaret Romero is starting to sound that way, too.
Can you see Margaret, Craig, or any of the city commissioners, or any of the city staff, parking their cars, trucks, mopeds, and riding bicycles to work, and everywhere else, unless they absolutely need motorized transportation? Gary, the only male server at Harpoon Harry’s, lives on Stock Island and rides a bicycle to and from work every day. He may not even own a motorized vehicle, but if he can do it, who working for the city cannot follow his lead?
Again, I seem to hear the sound of flapping pig wings.
I spaced out the KWPD community meeting on the graveyard cat burglar, as report in today’s Key West Citizen.
I had thought of going and asking how many KW police officers are searching for and harassing homeless people at night, who could be searching for and catching the cat burglar? Sorry I blew that opportunity to be charming again. Actually, I fell into a long, deep nap yesterday afternoon, and by the time I woke up, groggy, it was about 7:15 p.m., my mind was on a sort of wildish dream, which then led me off on a merry perhaps wild goose chase last night, or maybe not.
A word to the wise to the cat burglar, if he/she chances to read this jabber after I publish it at goodmorningkeywest.com today. Back when I was in law school, we aspiring lawyers were taught that a person does not have to retreat in his/her home. Without asking any questions, a person can shoot and kill any unknown intruder, especially in the night time. I imagine that’s still the law in Alabama. Has nothing to do with self-defense or stand your ground. Has to do with a person’s home is his/her castle, which can be defended with lethal force, especially in the nighttime.
Don’t know what the law is in Florida, but from what I read of Police Chief Donie Lee’s reported comments in the Citizen article, it looks to me he has a similar view, although he was less explicit than I am here. I know people in Key West, who have guns, who would not hesitate to shoot an intruder in the nighttime in their home. Unarmed defenseless me, I’d just ask what the intruder wants and give it to him/her, and wish him a happy karma he/she very definitely will end up not liking :-).
Mud Dawg Mike of Daddy Bones yummy BBQ behind Checkers on North Roosevelt Blvd sent yesterday:
MAN FOUND FROZEN TO DEATH IN MARYLAND
Record-breaking temperatures and wind chills claimed the life of one Maryland man Tuesday.
An arctic blast brought record-breaking temperatures and wind chills near minus 20 degrees to the area late Monday evening and into Tuesday. Many local officials warned of hypothermia cases, especially among the homeless population.
In Morningside, Md., the body of a possibly homeless Maryland man was found behind a business in the 4700 block of Allentown Road around 10 a.m. Tuesday.
“He was frozen solid,” a witness told News4’s Erika Gonzalez. “Someone could’ve done something. If it was a puppy or a kitten, someone would’ve done something for it.”
A number of employees along the stretch of Allentown Road told News4’s Erika Gonzalez they knew the victim and checked on him as best they could. They last saw him sleeping outside a business Monday.
“He was a good person, you know. He didn’t bother nobody,” said Justin Gerard, who works at a local sub shop. Helast saw the man Monday night and served him a hot meal. Gerard said he tried to keep the man out of the cold as long as possible.
The victim’s body was found the next morning wedged between a brick retaining wall and a chain-link fence. Those who work in the area say the man had been in the area for about a year.
The exact cause of his death has not yet been determined, but police say it’s likely weather-related.
The storm also caused plenty of material damage in the region, most notably rupturing dozens of pipes.
Well, that’s one homeless man Key West won’t have to worry about coming down here to keep from freezing to death. Hopefully, the fellow now is in a much better place than he would be even if he had managed to make it down here to paradise, to be hounded to death by Key West police.
I wonder if this city will ever figure out that the more pressure it puts on homeless people, the more prone they are to breaking down physically, mentally and emotionally, and doing something awful, which we then get to read all about in the local rags, including mine. That probably was a facetious question.
I talked a while yesterday with a Key West buddy who gets around town pretty well. He said the homeless situation seems unsolvable. I said it is unsolvable. The city has far more important things to deal with, which it actually can do something about.
A senior living facility, for example.
Truman Waterfront, for example.
I told my buddy that I learned yesterday from a second Key West buddy who gets around town, that the Navy has told the city it can only use cruise ship revenues from the outer mole on Truman Waterfront; the Navy told the city it no longer can divert outer mole cruise ship revenues to its general fund.
The first buddy said it is his understanding that the city might walk away from that deal and let someone else use the outer mole to receive cruise ships. He also said, it is his understanding that the city is supposed to spend all cruise ship revenues on the piers, and not divert any of it to the general fund, and anti-cruise ship forces are saving that one to use against the city. I said that was the first I’d heard of that, but I was glad to hear of it.
Well, don’t get me started, again.
The second buddy and I talked a while about Bible stuff. He’s turning out to be quite a student of that book.
For instance, he said the Bible was put together two or three hundred years after Jesus was said to have lived, by men who had heard from someone who had heard from someone who had heard from some one and so forth and so on, but since it was divinely inspired, or said to be, every last word of it was true, and if you don’t believe that, and how it is interpreted, you die and go to hell and burn there forever.
I laughed, said Tim Gratz had been trying for some time to save my soul with that hearsay many times removed – odd, an ex-lawyer would wager his life and his soul on hearsay many times removed; and I had kept challenging his many times removed hearsay perspective to the point he seemed to have stopped trying to save me and had started trying to save his hearsay many times removed perspective.
I said the worst thing I did to Tim, after he told me only Christians born again in the spirit die and go to heaven, and all others, including Christians not born again in the spirit, die and go to hell and burn there forever, was tell him that he did not understand what Jesus meant by being born again in the spirit.
I told Tim that how Peter ended up was what Jesus meant by being born again in the spirit, and Tim was not born again in the spirit in that way, nor was anyone he knew, well, he did know one person. And, applying the Peter born again in the spirit meaning to Tim’s salvation formula, Tim and every Christian he knew were going to die and go to hell and burn there forever. Then, I told Tim that was not true; that nobody he knew, or ever heard of, including Tim, was going to die and go to hell and burn there forever.
The second buddy said Pope Francis recently pronounced that there is no literal hell, as is commonly believed, and all who do good die and go to heaven. I said, yeah, I heard of that from Tim Gratz, and we batted it around a good while, me defending and applauding Pope Francis, Tim attacking him, until Tim finally found a minister who said there was no Vatican Council going on at which Pope Francis was reported to have said that, so it was a hoax. So, I told Tim the hoax was true, even if Pope Francis did not say it, and the real hoax is the fake salvation formula Tim is using, which pleases Lucifer immensely.
The second buddy said, actually, a Vatican Council just did wrap up. I said, Oh?
The second buddy said, well, there isn’t really a devil. I said, well, there really is, and I have had up close and personal dealings with it.
The second buddy said, maybe the people claiming all but their ilk are going to hell and burn there forever did some horrible thing in the past and are worried about not being allowed into heaven, and that’s why they carry on the way they do.
I laughed, said many years ago I read where Martin Luther, who was in some monastical Catholic Order, had a great big bad secret he did not want to confess. Confession was required in that Order. So, instead of confessing, Luther came up with an entirely new salvation theory; salvation through grace, what a person did or did not do in his/her life had nothing to do with getting into heaven, or into hell, in the afterlife.
(Martin Luther was the “father” of the Protestant Reformation, ie. rebellion against the Vatican in the West.)
The second buddy laughed, asked if I’d had formal theological training? No, just what any southern boy grew up hearing in a Baptist Church, and then in an Episcopal church. Many years later, the angels abducted him and took him back into the Bible and showed him different ways of looking a different passages, but never did they take him into Revelation, other than to say the fellow it came though didn’t know what it meant, so how could anyone else know?
The second buddy said he had watched Tuesday night’s city commission meeting on the local government TV channel. He said he listens when I get up to speak, because he figures it will be different. I said I reported my comments in yesterday’s post at goodmorningkeywest.com. He said that pink shirt and white collar showing underneath, which I was wearing at the meeting, made me look like a priest. I laughed, said that pink shirt was this ragged old sweat shirt I was wearing even as we were speaking. He said I should go shopping and find a pink garb like priests wear and get me a white clerical collar and wear it to city commission meetings. I howled. He howled.
If I told his name here, maybe a few of my Key West readers would howl, but he don’t want his name told, and I like sitting down and talking with him from time to time because he is a virtual treasure trove of information and scivvy I ain’t likely to ever find anywhere else. Suffice to say, he knows where heaps of bodies are buried, and who caused them to be buried.
There is a different post today at www.goodmorningbirmingham.com, which you should be able to reach by clicking on that link today, and by clicking on this link at anytime:
A bit expanded version of an earlier report on the BSC championship at this website, prompted by dreaming during my nap yesterday of an ever and deeper progressing Florida State-Auburn football game, in which God received more and more credit for what was going on in the game.
what about this explanation of Heaven & Hell? lol XOE
Student Is Asked About “Hell” On An Exam. You’ve Gotta Read His Answer.