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Search for Clean Transportation Alternatives to Coincide with "Car Free Day" in Bogotá, Colombia

28 January– The idea of banning cars on a work day in downtown Bogotá, Colombia, was a novelty-an experiment-on Thursday ,24 February 2000. But it worked. Taking to trains, buses, taxis and bicycles, people took alternative transportation to work that day and the city did not shut down. The normally traffic-choked streets turned into pedestrian malls, and what's more, the people in Bogotá like it. So much so, that they decided to make "Car-Free Day" an annual event.

When then Bogotá Mayor Enrique Peñalosa first proposed the event, the idea met with considerable resistance. Yet afterwards, a referendum to make "Car-Free Day" an annual event passed by a decisive margin. This year, Bogotá, along with no fewer than seven other Colombian cities, is joining in going "car-free" on 7 February. All told, about 14 million people will live without a car that day.

It's not a question of banning automobiles altogether, at this point, but to help people envision a city of the future, if only for a day, where viable mass transit and non-polluting vehicles take prominence. For Bogotá, the experiment has helped the city emerge as a model for transport and democracy for cities around the world.

The idea of car-free days is not new, as events have been held in several European cities. However, these days have tended to be small, ad hoc affairs, that have taken place on weekends.

The issue of sustainable transportation is a major issue for the World Summit on Sustainable Development, to be held in Johannesburg, South Africa from 26 August to 4 September. To promote discussion on possible solutions to current transportation problems, the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs is sponsoring a meeting of mayors on the issue that will be hosted by Bogotá. Starting on 6 February, the three-day meeting will serve as a forum to discuss obstacles to creating more efficient and equitable transport systems, as well to discuss solutions. The middle day of the meeting will be devoted to observing Car Free Day in Bogotá.

The other Colombian cities holding a "Car Free Day" this year include Ibague, Manizales, Neiva, Palmira, Pasto, Valledupar and Villavicencio.

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24 August 2006