Press Releases

    ENV/DEV/618
    PI/1403
    5 February 2002

    NINE CITIES JOIN FOR FIRST NATIONAL CAR FREE DAY,
    WITH UNITED NATIONS SUPPORT

    NEW YORK, 4 February (UN Headquarters) -- Over 14 million Colombians in nine cities will get where they are going without their automobiles on Thursday, 7 February, as Colombia holds its first national Car Free Day, with logistical support from the United Nations.

    Instead of a regular weekday marked by the usual traffic jams and smog, the heavy vehicular traffic on the streets of the capital Bogotá, and other cities, will yield to people as they go about their business. It is only for one day this year, but it will give Colombians, and leaders in the rest of the world, a glimpse of how the city of the future might look.

    In an effort to spread the momentum created by the Bogotá Car Free Day, and as part of its ‘ground level’ preparation for the World Summit on Sustainable Development, the United Nations Department for Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) is working with the Colombian Ministry of Environment to support the cities holding car free days.

    At the same time, DESA is also sponsoring a workshop, to be held in Bogotá on 6-8 February, for mayors from the region to discuss the possibility of staging Car Free Days in their respective cities. The mayors will also hold broader talks on transport policies that are in line with the goals of sustainable development.

    In addition to Bogotá, the other cities holding car free days are Cali, Palmira, Manizales, Neiva, Ibague, Pasto, Valledupar and Villavicencio.

    More than just a gimmick to promote environmental awareness, the car free days give all people, from all social walks of life, a chance to share the city street equally. In most developing countries, only 14 per cent of the population owns cars -- but they take up most of the street space and cause most of the congestion and pollution.

    Car free days are not new to Bogotá; the first such day was held in February 2000. Although it was met with widespread resistance, the day was so successful that the people of the city supported a referendum, with an 87 per cent majority, to make the car free day an annual event. This mandate has helped the city gain support for new public transport projects and initiatives for expanding infrastructure for alternative transport.

    The transport sector is critical for social and economic development, yet the widespread use of private vehicles inflicts large costs on society -- in the form of local and global air pollution, congestion, and consequently, a loss of productive time. Implemented correctly, car free days can promote the use of public and alternative modes of transport. The removal of private vehicles from the streets of the city can spark a dynamic dialogue that questions the path of the development of transport infrastructure and provide citizens with the opportunity to reconsider city transport patterns on a long term scale.

    For more information, please contact Ghazal Badiozamani, Project Coordinator, United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, tel. 212-963-4661; e-mail: badiozamani@un.org, Dan Shepard, UN Department of Public, tel. (212) 963-7704; e-mail: shepard@un.org; Lisa Guaqueta, Bogota Mayor’s Office, tel. 57-1-381-3000 ext. 1057, or cell, 57-3-285-2003; Amparo Diaz, United Nations Development Programme, tel. 571-214-2200; fax 571-620-5905; e-mail: amparo.diaz@undp.org.

    To learn more about the UN Car Free Days series, visit www.uncfd.org

    Mayors of all participating cities will be available for interviews.

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