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City sets global precedent with weekly car ban that closes several roads: 'It's really important'

"There's something about the tranquility and how it frees you. You can really feel it."

"There's something about the tranquility and how it frees you. You can really feel it."

Photo Credit: iStock

A 1974 protest against cars inspired the citizens of Bogotá, Colombia, to take back their streets every Sunday and on public holidays from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. 

The Guardian reported about the Ciclovía event, which closes the city's biggest streets to vehicles but leaves them open for cyclists, skaters, and pedestrians. Ciclovía is a nonprofit citizen movement with an average of 1.5 million users, according to the Colombian government's website. 

"It's not just about the body, exercise, or health," one long-term Ciclovía cyclist said, per the Guardian. "It's about the mind and the soul, too. Breaking up the monotony, the stress of work, the hostility of all the cars, and the chaos. There's something about the tranquility and how it frees you. You can really feel it."

Other Ciclovía participants describe car-free streets as building community by gathering together, overcoming inequality through inclusivity, and changing people's perceptions of their urban spaces. 

The Guardian reported that people who use Ciclovía are twice as likely to bike at other times of the week, even when the event is not in progress. The effect is most pronounced among women who overcome their safety concerns about cycling and feel more comfortable biking the streets. 

According to the Guardian, city planner Gil Peñalosa said: "It's got to be one of the best exports to come out of the country."

Beyond the personal and community effects of Ciclovía, there are environmental benefits, too. 

Bogotá is notorious for its air pollution, but pollution and noise levels drop dramatically during Ciclovía. 

"It's really important to reduce these harmful chemicals, as when people exercise, they pull more air into their lungs. But it's also a big contribution to climate change, as for 52 days a year, plus public holidays, the air pollution plummets," said Olga Lucia Sarmiento, School of Medicine professor at Bogotá's Andes University, per the Guardian. 

Regardless of where you live, swapping out your car can profoundly impact the planet, as you reduce traffic congestion and air pollution. By eliminating the cultural barriers and safety concerns around biking, cities can promote healthier citizens in a healthier environment. 

Other cities, such as Buenos Aires and Bengaluru, now have similar initiatives as part of their plans to combat rising global temperatures, as the Guardian noted.  

"What [is] the likelihood of having something like this in London?" one Redditor commented on a post about the news. "Would be amazing." 

Another Reddit commenter wondered: "Why don't they go ahead and make it permanent instead of once a week?"

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