This City Bans Cars Every Sunday and Everyone Loves It

Over 2 million cars and motorcycles are cleared off the roads of Bogotá, Colombia every Sunday to make way for bicycles, roller skates, scooters and skateboards

Credit: Juan Cristóbal Cobo, National Geographic

Every Sunday, the traffic-jammed, stressed-out citizens of Bogotá, Colombia get a day of rest, free from honking horns, sitting at red lights and engine fumes.

Credit: Juan Cristóbal Cobo, National Geographic

For the last 14 years, the city’s leaders have banned all motorized vehicles in the city limits from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. and over time, it has turned into a day of relaxation and celebration.

Originating as an environmentalist experiment, it a respite from the stress of modern life, cherished by the 1.5 million Bogotanos who come out for the festivities at the end of each week.

Credit: Juan Cristóbal Cobo, National Geographic

“All kinds of transportation are welcome—bicycles, roller skates, scooters, wheelchairs, skateboards—as long as they are not motor-driven,” reports for National Geographic.

Credit: Juan Cristóbal Cobo, National Geographic

The event is called Ciclovía, or Bicycle Way, and the idea is spreading worldwide to cities in Europe, China and New Zealand.

Ciclovía is about more than just cycling. It’s about slowing down and building community. And there’s lot’s to do besides riding or rollerblading, including walking, running, dancing, Zumba and even tai chi.

Or, you can grab some of the best street grub the world has to offer and sit back and relax. People watch. Listen to a live salsa band.

Credit: Juan Cristóbal Cobo, National Geographic

“The most important thing is the social fabric that gets woven at Ciclovía,”  Bibiana Sarmiento tells National Geographic.

Sarmiento started out as a skater and guardián for Ciclovía and now runs the whole program.

Credit: Juan Cristóbal Cobo, National Geographic

“The Ciclovía is the moment when motor vehicles make way for human beings,” she said. “Our objective is to make citizens take over the city’s public space.”

In a war-torn and socially stratified country like Colombia, one of the things Sarmiento loves about the program is its ability to bring people together and ease tension.

“No one cares about the clothes you’re wearing or what social class you’re from: everyone is welcome, and everyone is equal,” she said.

“We see the change in behavior. During the week if a policeman approaches to recommend a different conduct, everyone will answer aggressively. On Sundays, people will do as the policeman asks. On Sundays, citizens become tolerant.”