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Cars Banned for the Day in Bogota

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  • Robert J. Matter
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/aponline/20010201/aponline145849_000.htm Cars Banned for the Day in Bogota By Jared Kotler Associated Press Writer
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 2, 2001
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      Cars Banned for the Day in Bogota

      By Jared Kotler
      Associated Press Writer
      Thursday, Feb. 1, 2001; 2:58 p.m. EST

      BOGOTA, Colombia –– Residents of Bogota commuted to
      work on foot, bicycles, roller skates and even an antique
      diesel locomotive Thursday, when a ban on private cars
      transformed the usually traffic-clogged capital.

      Many found the one-day respite from the blaring horns, edgy
      drivers and added smog all too brief.

      "I love it," said Juan Carlos Aristizabal, who left his car in the
      garage and biked 40 blocks to his telecommunications
      company. "It shows people there are other ways to get to

      Natalia Navas looked wobbly crossing a north Bogota
      intersection on a pair of shiny white roller skates. But she,
      too, was happy to have left her car behind.

      "It doesn't bother me," she said. "My job is close to where I
      live. And I love to skate."

      Car-Free Day was first instituted a year ago in Bogota by
      Mayor Enrique Penalosa, a bicycle enthusiast who delivered
      speeches about the evils of the automobile. Voters later
      approved a referendum for an annual Car-Free Day, held the
      first Thursday of February.

      During his three-year-term, Penalosa sharply restricted car
      use during rush hours, built hundreds of miles of bike paths,
      and stuck cement posts all over city sidewalks to prevent
      people from parking cars in front of stores.

      The like-minded current mayor, Antanas Mockus, eagerly
      embraced Car-Free Day – modeled after experiments in
      European capitals including Amsterdam, Paris, Munich and
      Rome. He rode the bus and pulled passengers around on a
      rickshaw-style bicycle taxi on Thursday.

      "It's a marvelous city," Mockus said.

      With 900,000 private cars on the road and 40,000 new ones
      sold each year, this subway-deprived city of nearly 7 million
      inhabitants has some of Latin America's most hellish traffic
      jams. A new public bus system that shepherded many
      "Bogotanos" to work Thursday is only beginning to impose
      order on the chaos.

      Most people in Bogota played by the rules, but police said by
      midday about 250 scofflaw motorists had been pulled over,
      fined about $12 each.

      Mockus said monitors noted high pollution levels at 6:00 a.m.
      as some car owners scrambled to get to work before the
      restriction kicked in 30 minutes later.

      Although some residents grumbled, others profited.

      "It looks like one big yellow train out there," beamed taxi
      driver Alberto Valero, who was busier as usual.

      Freelance bicycle repairmen spread tools and pumps
      alongside bike paths, fixing flat tires for about 50 cents and
      adding air for about a dime.

      Doing its part, a tour company operating a 1950s locomotive
      on weekends fired up its diesel engines and ran a special
      commuter run Thursday, taking hundreds of people to work.

      Merchants, who last year waged a vocal campaign against
      Car-Free Day, this time marked the occasion with sales, live
      music, puppet shows and discounted taxi rides home.

      Not all were exactly in the spirit. One shopping center
      distributed raffle tickets; the prize was a new sport utility

      © Copyright 2001 The Associated Press
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