Friday, February 24, 2012

The Septimazo Returns - Briefly

A street performer dances with a mannequin in the middle of Seventh Ave. this afternoon.

This evening I walked onto Seventh Ave. near Jimenez and, for a few brief moments, it seemed as tho the much-missed Septimazo had returned.

El Septimazo was a tradition in which the stretch of Seventh Ave. between Plaza Bolivar and 19th St. was shut to cars Friday afternoons from 5 to 9 p.m. to make way for pedestrians, street vendors and performers.

Hare Krishnas dance down Seventh. 
But the previous City Hall administration cancelled El Septimazo, with no public explanation. However, the practice of shutting down part of one of downtown's principal arteries had been criticized by car drivers and some retailers, who objected to the competition from informal street vendors, who pay no rent or taxes. There were also concerns about crime.

Amidst its real problems, El Septimazo was also a real celebration of socializing, music and street games.

Alas, today's 'Septimazo' turned out to be only a temporary closing caused by a protest against police brutality. After negotiations, the protesters agreed to demonstrate on the sidewalk.

Soldiers make sure nothing goes wrong. 
New Mayor Gustavo Petro has talked about bringing back El Septimazo, and I hope that he does it. In any case, Seventh Ave. will be pedestrianized beginning tomorrow because of the demolishing of the bridge over 26th St. for TransMilenio expansion work. Officials say that replacing it will take five months. We'll see how that goes.

A cyclist on Seventh Ave. 
During the bridgeless period, Mayor Petro says that the stretch of Seventh Ave. between Plaza Bolivar and 26th St. will be progressively pedestrianized. That will be an interesting experiment. The city has promised to prevent the avenue from being invaded by informal vendors, who take sales away from stores but pay no rent or taxes.

Without El Septimazo, the vendors and performers generally do their thing on the sidewalks.

Hats for sale on a Seventh Ave. sidewalk. 

Want your portrait sketched?

And then the cars reinvaded.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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