Thursday, September 15, 2011

Bogotá's Rolling Relics

The owner of this 1966 Ford said it runs on natural gas, making it pollution-free.
Many new car owners can't say that. 
They were designed and built in another era, when pollution and fuel efficiency laws barely existed or not at all. What would the men who assembled these cars a half century ago think if they knew their creations were still sharing the world, and maybe even the road, with their grandchildren?

A1954 Chevy truck: a half-century of  polluting, and counting. 
Government officials are working on a law to remove these rolling museum pieces from the road, because many are highly polluting and are bad mechanical shape. But the old cars' owners have protested: they say their cars are in good shape and meet pollution laws. That's not often true, but these people do have a real point: a decades-old vehicle might be well-maintained and have a new engine.

And even if many old cars are dangerous rolling chimeneys, well, so are lots of those 

showy but cheap new diesel vehicles. Shouldn't the owner of your grandfather's tank 
have the same right to waste natural resources as the purchaser of a gas guzzling SUV ego car? Why shouldn't the owner of an old junker have the same right to belch diesel fumes into the air as does the purchaser of one of those shiny new Chinese-made pickups, which apparently have no environmental controls?

How much history has this red van seen?

The solution isn't to discriminate against the owners of old vehicles, who are primarily people of modest means, but to actually enforce environmental and safety standards on all vehicles - including those shiny new ones. If authorities actually fined polluters, that'd convince a lot of motorists to fix or retire their vehicles. Lots would probably get exported - to Venezuela, where fuel efficiency doesn't matter because gasoline almost free and they don't even think about enforcing pollution laws.

An old truck gets a little help from friends. 
Previous Bogotá mayors actually did force bus companies to junk thousands of old buses. But current suspended Mayor Samuel Moreno got into office on support from the bus companies, and found it convenient to not enforce laws - no matter the impact on Bogotanos' health and safety.

This ancient vehicle is on bricks now, but will roll again soon. 
Finally, this situation gives the lie to the car industry's portrayal of new cars as 'green' because they supposedly pollute less than do the old ones. That's wrong for many reasons, including the fact that many of those new cars are cheap diesels lacking any pollution controls. But even if all new cars were zero-emission electrics it would still be a lie, because those used cars don't go away - they just get sold to someone else, and contine rolling across Colombia, poisoning its air.

Private university students with their new Land Rover. Why should they be the only ones allowed to waste resources?

Classic cars for sale along Jimenez Ave. - some almost a century old.

These old classics are well guarded. 

The 1966 Ford's banged up grill. 

Detail of the 1966 Ford. 

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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