The green streets of Bogotá

“I want a lodger who is sensible about lights and showering and the electricity generally,” the advertisement read.

“Not because I worry about the expense, but because I worry about the environment.”

I read that description when I was searching for an apartment in Bogotá (for those of you worrying, I’m now permanently renting a room at Diego’s house)

I thought it was a little strange. Normally you read: “I want someone clean” or “I want someone who doesn’t leave tea bags in the sink and little traces of toothpaste on the taps”.

‘Environmentally aware’ doesn’t usually feature.

Still, it was a Friday night, so I soon forgot the advert.

I switched off my laptop, had a shower and put on a new dress – ready to meet some of my friends at a bar.

Mila, my sole female housemate, was out so I knocked on Diego’s door to check the dress was acceptable.

“You were in the shower for ages,” my housemate grumbled, before I could mention the dress.

I assumed it was a bad moment.

“And you’ve left the bathroom light on,” he continued.

I was indignant.

“I’m going back in the bathroom to put my make up on,” I spluttered.

“I only came in here to show you my new dress.”

Diego shrugged.

“Don’t blame me,” he said, ready to deliver a sermon.

“I’m just trying to save the planet here.”


So, my housemate is a self-righteous, planet-saving greenie.

He even shares a car with his friend, Cesar.

It was this car, a red Volkswagen Golf, that made me realise the full scope of the city’s astonishing environmentalism.

Two days a week the boys’ car is not allowed on the road.

If they drive in Bogotá on a Monday or Wednesday, between 6am and 8pm, the authorities will take their car.

The same applies to every driver in the city.

Each vehicle is allocated two days a week, according to numberplate, when it is banned from the roads.

It means that, for two days a week at least, every driver in the city must take the bus, cycle, walk or share a car.

The system is called ‘Pico y placa’ (literally ‘Pick and Plate’) and covers taxis and private buses too.

Can you imagine if it was introduced in England?

There would be a riot.


  1. Archi Enemigo

    Creo que el pico y placa a veces tiene que ver más con la incapacidad de la administración de organizar el tráfico en la ciudad y que el efecto ambiental es un efecto secundario que muchos agradecemos.

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