I consider myself lucky to have been brought up in a city with a large ecological conscience. I believe when cities have strong collective values it truly resonates within the citizens in many positive ways. Not only do these initiatives inspire other eco-friendly causes, they also bring the citizens together toward a common goal: the preservation of the space that is a shared home to millions.
Bogotá, the capital of Colombia, is a city of 8 million people and it is one of the biggest, most cosmopolitan cities in Latin America. One of my favorite parts about growing up in such a big city was realizing the cultural uniqueness of my hometown. Such a diverse and lively place faces many challenges, including ecological issues; mobility, waste management, and air pollution, to name a few. Here are some of Bogotá’s most innovative and clever sustainable solutions.
1. The Ciclovia.
Every Sunday Bogotá closes its roads for cars and opens them up to bicycles, runners, and walkers. During the hours of 7 am to 2 pm, 76 miles of road become either partially or entirely off limits to vehicles. Active transportation programs like this one encourage residents to exercise, while drawing people from different neighborhoods together, and also reducing air pollution. During Christmas time, a special event called the Night Ciclovia is held, for sightseeing of the city’s Christmas light decorations. Today, Bogotá’s Ciclovia is considered the world’s most successful mass recreation event.
2. The Transmilenio.
Last week I wrote about Curitiba’s innovation in green transport, the Bus Rapid Transit system (BRT). A BRT provides service similar to that of the subway or train network, by organizing bus designated lanes and stations across the roads. Although Curitiba was the first in the world to implement a BRT, Bogota, a city of 8 million people, tested the system’s viability on a much larger scale, for cities far more populated than Curitiba. In 1998, Mayor Enrique Peñalosa initiated the Transmilenio (named after “transport of the millennium”), Bogotá’s version of the BRT. In part, the project suceded due to its large, organized stations across the city’s main highways.
3. No-car day.
Bogota celebrates an annual day in which private vehicles are not allowed to circulate the streets. Public transportation, bicycles, and walking become the transport mediums of the day. A proposal to increase the frequency of no-car hours recently raised discussions on advantages and disadvantages; on the one hand, congestion and accidents on the road decrease to a great extent, and air pollution levels fall, says mobility expert Darío Hidalgo. On the other hand, such an extreme measure demands public transportation to support the entire city, which University of the Andes’ research expert, Daniel Paéz, questions: “For a kinder mobility, significative improvements in Transmilenio, the integrated public transportation system, and taxis, need to take place first” (El Tiempo, 2017).
4. Tapas para sanar.
“Caps for healing” is such a simple and effective idea which encourages recycling. This nonprofit organization prompts citizens to recycle plastic caps by depositing them into special bins set up in malls, office buildings, and public sites throughout the city. Participants may also mail the material, at no additional cost, through 4/72, a Colombian mail company. The plastic that is turned in generates profits designated to fund chemotherapy for kids and teens in need. This cause not only benefits the environment, but also creates solidarity toward vulnerable populations.
5. No straws campaign.
Bogotá has been implementing this successful campaign for a few years now. The idea is quite simple as well; saying no to plastic straws at restaurants. Establishments all over the city now ask customers whether they will be needing a straw or not, and unless you ask the server, you will not be provided with one. Imagine the reduction in plastic waste from such a simple initiative. This is great news, considering plastic has one of the longest lifespans (500 years) and thus poses a great burden on the environment.
Cruz, Michael. Pros y contras de la propuesta de más días y horas sin carros en vía. El Tiempo. 4 February 2017. Internet Resource. http://www.eltiempo.com/bogota/pros-y-contras-de-propuesta-de-penalosa-de-mas-dias-sin-carro-50555
Maczulak, Anne E. Sustainability [ElectronicResource]: BuildingEco-FriendlyCommunities. New York : Facts On File, ©2010., 2010. Green technology. EBSCOhost, ezproxy.lib.usf.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=cat00847a&AN=usflc.025155459&site=eds-live.
Reed, Drew. How Curitiba’s BRT stations sparked a transport revolution – a history of cities in 50 buildings, day 43. The Guardian. 26 May 2015. Internet resource. https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2015/may/26/curitiba-brazil-brt-transport-revolution-history-cities-50-buildings