Anna and I spent a week in Bogotá in 1992; it was dirty and felt dangerous, and most of the people looked poor and sullen. (The gastro I acquired after a few days, which caused simultaneous and explosive vomiting and diarrhoea, didn’t endear us to the city either.) It was hard to imagine that only a few years later the city would host a radical urban transport experiment that would noticeably improve Bogotáns’ lives.
Beginning in the mid-1990s, Bogotá’s Mayor Peñalosa declared war on cars. He knew that road-dominated cities have the most miserable populations (a fact thoroughly backed up by research). Instead of the insane urban road expansions beloved of Australian politicians even today, he poured money into cycle paths, parks and pedestrian plazas and began the city’s first rapid transit system. He banned commuting by car more than three times a week. Driving times fell, as did car accident rates; air quality improved, and Bogotáns became healthier and more optimistic. Read Charles Montgomery’s inspiring story (in The Guardian, 2nd November 2013) here.