Published On: Mon, Feb 10th, 2014

Bogota: What a Difference a (Car-Free) Day Makes!

While the streets were clearer, the air wasn’t necessarily cleaner

carrera 3 traffic jam and car free

You can take a lot of conclusions out of these pairs of photos of Bogotá avenues on ‘normal’ days, left, and the city’s Car-Free Day, on the right, Thursday, February 6, 2014.  One thing is clear, however, on those ‘normal’ days traffic often barely moves. On Ca-Free Day, there was room to move.

calle 26 with and without cars

While the streets were clearer, the air wasn’t necessarily cleaner – underlining the city’s lack of control on vehicle emissions. El Tiempo editor Ernesto Cortés wrote a scathing column about air pollution today.

Environmental officials reported that ozone and nitrogen dioxide levels dropped compared to normal day. But concentrations of tiny particles suspended in the air actually increased in the morning, before leveling off to ‘normal.’

Buses moved considerably faster and both TransMilenio and SITP buses carried more passengers.

The city created a temporary bike lane along the length of Ave. Septima - it should be there every day. These costumed bicyclists found the new lane useful.

The city created a temporary bike lane along the length of Ave. Septima – it should be there every day. These costumed bicyclists found the new lane useful.

Environmental officials set up 9 air pollution measurement stations, where they measured the emissions of almost 600 vehicles – about 100 of which failed. As far as I can tell, Car Free Day is the only time when officials actually measure vehicle pollution in the streets (whether those vehicles are actually punished is another issue). By their probably non-too-strict standards almost 1 out of 5 vehicles failed. If they would only do such measurements on a regular basis and actually remove these vehicles from our streets, Bogotá’s air quality, health and quality of life would rise notably.

Not just cyclists - skateboarders also used the bike lanes.

Not just cyclists – skateboarders also used the bike lanes.

Bogotá environmental officials reported that the number of cyclists sextupled today. I’d take that statistic with a grain of salt, but numbers did rise.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogo Bike Tours


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