The high price of fuel and the debate about stopping the import of natural gas and oil from Russia, as well as the global shortage of raw materials, have triggered a discussion about car-free Sundays not only in Europe. Yet while such progress initially triggers a defensive reflex in automobile country Germany, South American cities with populations of more than a million are already further along. They have been turning their city centers into car-free zones for years on Sundays, creating unique leisure experiences. An example is the Colombian capital, Bogotá.
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Every day the avalanche of cars storms Carrera 7, perhaps the most important transit axis in the metropolis with nine million inhabitants at 2,600 meters above sea level in the Andes. People struggle with traffic jams and problems every day: Bogotá still doesn’t have a metro. For several decades, however, there has been a special feature in the Andean metropolis at an altitude of 2,600 meters: “Ciclovia” is what Colombians call their gigantic weekly sports festival, also on the otherwise chronically chronicled Carrera 7. overloaded. Vacationers, cyclists, pedestrians, and in-line skaters have unique power over city roads. Many city administration helpers make sure that pedestrians and drivers no longer get in each other’s way.
In Bogotá alone, 120 kilometers of roads are closed to motorists
Literally translated, “Ciclovia” actually means “bike trail,” but there’s a lot more to it than that. “I enjoy the freedom of being able to exercise in the middle of the city,” says Ángela Giraldo, a young mother who walks the asphalt with her little daughter. No fear of a car getting too close to her. In Bogotá alone there will be a total of around 120 kilometers of roads that will remain closed to motorists and will be for recreational athletes for seven hours. Very early in the morning, shortly after 7 am, the early bird crowd is still manageable, but from 10 am the flow of runners and cyclists increases. Behind this there is a logistical masterpiece, because blocking the traffic axes of a metropolis like Bogotá is as complex as organizing a city marathon. But that happens more than fifty times a year in Bogotá, Medellín or Cali and it is a long-established routine. As soon as the streets are closed at 7 am, they are open for cars again from 2 pm There are similar concepts in other Latin American metropolises such as Rio de Janeiro.
“We want to become the bicycle capital of the world,” said the green mayor of Bogotá, Claudia López, with confidence. In fact, the bike lane network has been significantly expanded and there is now a structurally separate, bike-friendly infrastructure throughout the city. Bogotá’s bike-friendly concept also has economic consequences. Bicycle shops are experiencing a real boom. Now there are more and more repair shops, but also shops, both for high-quality new bikes and used ones. Where tens of thousands of people play sports, there is also a demand for natural juices, water or manual help. Pop-up shops that help fix flat bike tires are in full swing, as are orange juice presses. In the city center, artists and bands use the relaxed atmosphere as a backdrop for their performances. The good life of the market returns a bit to the city center during these car-free hours, because cyclists have an advantage over drivers: they can stop spontaneously if something takes their fancy.
Of the six lanes of Race 7, three are reserved for athletes
Cars circulate in Bogotá despite the “Cyclovia”, but only on secondary roads or compensatory routes. Of the six lanes of Race 7, three are reserved for athletes and the other three for cars. But only in one direction. Vehicles sometimes have to cross “runner roads”. The helpers then raise a stop sign to stop the athletes. Cars have the right of way again for a few seconds, before the street once again belongs to the fitness enthusiasts.