Thursday, February 6, 2014

What a Difference a (Car-Free) Day Makes!

Left, Carrera 30, near the Universidad Nacional, on a normal day,
and, right, today on Car-Free Day.
You can take a lot of conclusions out of these pairs of photos of Bogotá avenues on 'normal' days, left, and today's Car-Free Day, on the right. (I didn't necessarily take the photos at the same time of day, but the scenes are typical.) One thing is clear, however, on those 'normal' days traffic often barely moves. Today, there was room to move.

Left, Calle 26 on a normal day, and, right,
today on Car-Free Day.
While the streets were clearer, the air wasn't necessarily cleaner - underlining the city's lack of control on vehicle emissions. El Tiempo editor Ernesto Cortés wrote a scathing column about air pollution today.

I saw many more bicyclists than on an ordinary day.
These are riding on the bike lane on Ave. Septima.
Environmental officials reported that ozone and nitrogen dioxide levels dropped compared to normal day. But concentrations of tiny particles suspended in the air actually increased in the morning, before leveling off to 'normal.'

Buses moved considerably faster and both TransMilenio and SITP buses carried more passengers.

Liberal Party political campaigners pedal
down Ave. Septima. 
Environmental officials set up 9 air pollution measurement stations, where they measured the emissions of almost 600 vehicles - about 100 of which failed. As far as I can tell, Car Free Day is the only time when officials actually measure vehicle pollution in the streets (whether those vehicles are actually punished is another issue). By their probably non-too-strict standards almost 1 out of 5 vehicles failed. If they would only do such measurements on a regular basis and actually remove these vehicles from our streets, Bogotá's air quality, health and quality of life would rise notably.

Bogotá environmental officials reported that the number of cyclists sextupled today. I'd take that statistic with a grain of salt, but numbers did rise.

The city created a temporary bike lane along the length of Ave. Septima - it should be there every day. These costumed bicyclists found the new lane useful. 
TransMilenio buses were packed. 
But SITP buses were, as always, almost empty. 
Not just cyclists - skateboarders also used the bike lanes.
By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours


Andy Johnson said...

I agree, the traffic moved a lot better than normal but I think the air quality was actually worse. I think there were more buses, at least on 7th which created more pollution. It was good to see one lane of street sectioned off for bicycles.

Miguel said...

According to the Secretaria de Ambiente, most air pollutants actually decreased, but suspended microparticles did not.

If you want to read a harsh piece about yesterday's air quality, check out the column by El Tiempo editor Cortés.