As activists, politicians, planners, and bicycle huggers from around the world gather for Towards Carfree Cities VI in Bogotá, Colombia we are blessed with an amazing climate for creative thinking and organizing. "Weather to sell real estate by" claims a local Bogotan working as translator for the gathering.
Bogotá is the perfect city to discuss such topics. The city has more than one million vehicles moving about each day. These include cars, buses, bikes, and even thousands of cargo carts pulled by mules and horses.
The city also has one of the most profound income disparities in the world. In one day you will meet a poor father begging for coins to buy milk for his children, and across town, the beautiful set get out of SUVs for dinner at upscale restaurants. Private security guards are ubiquitous, and mixed with the national army who carry M-16s on the street, you know you are not in Kansas anymore.
Transit use in Bogotá is dramatic. More than 75 percent of trips are made on public transit, a system made famous for the TransMilenio - Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system which can fairly be described as "The Spine" of the city. Bogotá has instituted a pedestrian-transit first policy which puts people first, automobiles second. But considering the still congested roads, they have quite a way to go before becoming a car-free city. Air pollution remains a major problem with the deaths of 220 children attributed to bad air just last year. Particulate matter, emitted largely from diesel trucks and coal-burning industries are the culprit in this crime against public health.
In respone to such conditions, three mayors in a row have made sustaiable and economically-just mobility their central focus. Much progress has been made since these projects began in 1995. The city also boasts of a popular car free bicycle ride thoughout the city each Sunday know an "Ciclovia." Bogotá's commitment to public transportation is paying off. The BRT system enjoys exclusive corridors, miles of bike paths have been built, and car usage has levelled off.
It can be done.