This is Transmilenio station Alcalá at rush hour on Thursday, February 2, 2012.
This station is located in the north at Calle 136 with Autopista. This is the major transit system in the city called the Transmilenio that travels in a dedicated lane along the highway. Normally there is bumper to bumper traffic on the highway. As you can see from this photo, that is not the case. The reason for this is that this photo was taken on Dia Sin Carro or No Car Day. Throughout this city of over 7 million people no private vehicles are allowed on the road for the entire day. Everyone must walk, bike, or take public transportation. In the morning this means more students are riding their bikes to university or high school, more parents are walking their kids to school, and more people are out on the streets in general throughout the day. Everything seems much more peaceful without all the honking, braking, and general noise of cars.
Of course, there are exceptions to the no car rule according to decree 198 of 2000. Allowed on the road are:
- Public transport vehicles.
- Air-conditioned vehicles for people with disabilities and emergency vehicles.
- Authorized vehicles for student transportation (school buses).
- Transport vehicles that take more than 10 passengers.
- Vehicles that are used for businesses that offer public delivery services.
- Traffic control vehicles or machinery for the Secretary of Transit and Transport in Bogota.
- The Presidential Convoy
- Military vehicles, Police vehicles, and Diplomatic vehicles.
- Vehicles that are bulletproof at level III or higher.
- Vehicles that are carrying bodyguards.
- Funeral processions, motorcycles, powered bicycles, and bicycle taxis.
There were police out everywhere making sure the rules were being followed (with a hefty 283,000 peso fine – about $140USD – and your car is seized). I must admit, I enjoyed seeing more people out on the streets either walking or biking during the day. The sidewalks were full and there were many lively conversations taking place! Even the park was busier than it usually is. The city already has rules where you cannot drive your car twice a week during rush hour (according to the last number of your license plate), but many people just end up owning two cars to get around this.
My question is: How do we take advantage of Dia Sin Carro to create long lasting changes in our behaviour and what do we as citizens need to make this happen?
PS – I did a little research: Level 3 protection in bulletproof cars is for every common calibre. For example, .22, .33, .45, 9mm, .357 Magnum, .44 Magnum, or anything of the same calibre. It seems Colombia follows the US Federal Standards for the Ballistic Resistance of Police Body Armor.