Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Situation on La Septima

Cyclists on La Septima. 

The mayor's pedestrianization of the stretch of Ave. Septima between 19th and 25th streets has gotten lots of criticism: some shopowners say that it's reduced sales, made taxis scarce and brought more trash and beggars. Informal vendors have invaded the street and sidewalks, they complain.

But, I walk and bike that street every day, and I'm not convinced that these are real problems - or at least that they can't be addressed.
Pedestrians walk down the center of La Septima,
passing in front of the Teatro Gaitan. 

What is clear, is that in many ways La Septima has turned into a much more pleasant, dynamic place. It's become pleasant to walk, skate and bicycle on this part of the street, now that you're not imperiled by chaotic traffic and gassed by fumes. It's also opened the street to art and music, which were near impossible with vehicles honking and screeaching a few yards away.

Bikes to lend on La Septima. But the program
only covers these six pedestrianized blocks. 
THERE ARE piles of trash, beggars and street vendors on La Septima. But the critics of pedestrianization seem to have forgotten that these things were ALWAYS there, as you can see on the street's non-pedestrianized portions. And, there are plenty of things the storeowners and city government could do to use and improve this new public space. To start with, they could clean it up, by putting trees in the vacant planters, painting walls and scheduling concerts and other events in the street, which would attract people, who turn into customers. Why not also expand the street's bike lending scheme to neighboring areas, which would turn the program into a real transport option for the city center?

Mayor Petro is studying the viability of expanding the pedestrian corridor all the way south to Plaza Bolivar. But I wonder about the
City workers arrange planter boxes in the street.  

 impact on the city's historical center when all of Ave. Septima's traffic is forced thru old town's narrow streets.

The city government has some ideas to make the car-free Septima more amenable, such as permitting shops to set up umbrellas and chairs on the wide sidewalks.

An informal concert in the evening. 

Pedestrianization has potential to make downtown, now full of pollution, noise and traffic jams, more humane and liveable. But that will take real reform of the city's transport system, including a planned light rail line on La Septima.
Books for sale on the sidewalk. 
In the evening the sidewalk turns into a literal sales floor for random stuff. 

This sidewalk was not invaded by vendors...during the day. 

While this sidewalk, on a non-pedestrianized part of La Septima, was invaded by vendors. 

A cyclist carries his kid home down the middle of La Septima. 

Planting trees in the planters would improve the street. 

As would cleaning up trash and graffiti. 

A man places a poster amidst graffiti. A lot could be done to improve the street's appearance, such as hiring some talented street artists. 
I took these photos a few blocks south on La Septima. Pedestrianization does not fill the sidewalk with vendors.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours


Trashcanman said...
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Carlito said...

I don't see why vendors would protest other than a real drop in sales... But I also don't understand the possible correlation between car and bus traffic and sales; except in the night when a person wants to avoid an empty and potentially dangerous septima.

mauricio forero l said...

Great post Miguel, like almost always, love the shots to.

Mauricio Forero.

Miguel said...

Thanks Mauricio. Glad that you like the photos.

Hi Carlitos. I think the storeowners believe that more people passed thru the area with motor vehicle traffic, and that access was easier. But I'm not sure. The street was often a traffic jam. And it's certainly much more pleasant now.