Rich people of Bogotá: Are you the problem?

Now you know I worry and stress about many things in life, but there are two I really couldn’t give a damn about – cellphones and cars. My phone frequently endures being called ‘hipster’, ‘a brick’ or ‘flecha’ by my friends because it rings like, er, a telephone and it’s never heard of facebook, much less Instagram.

Similarly, I haven’t owned a car in years and have no interest in them. Offer me a choice between a puppy and a Ferrari and I wouldn’t have to think about it. When was the last time a Ferrari welcomed anyone home?

But I appreciate not everyone feels the same way I do – my ex-boyfriend once called me “demasiado sencilla” or “far too simple”, which is the weirdest insult ever, right? – and, besides, I get to enjoy the sight of other people’s cars every day. Puns aside, it drives me crazy.

Ask any Bogotano the worst thing about this town and they’ll tell you the ‘traffic’. Then ask them if they own a car. Sometimes, without the faintest trace of irony, they’ll tell you they have two.

Two cars? I hear you splutter. What city dweller needs two cars? Well for those uninitiated in the intricate beauty of Bogotá, the reason they have two cars is to avoid a lovely little law called ‘Pico y Placa’.

Pico y Placa decrees that for two days a week you are not allowed to use your car. A clever little machine reads your number plate and if it catches you using your car on the two days you are supposed to rely on your legs, a bike, a taxi, a bus or TransMilenio – Bogotá’s overland metro – it fines you. Of course, if you have two cars you get to juggle your number plates and sit in traffic every single day, complaining about how awful it is.

Now considering you have to be comparatively wealthy to afford two cars in this town, I’m going to take a vague stab that fining these dodgy double dealers isn’t going to make the slightest bit of difference. Instead, I think it’s high time we reincarnated the spirit of Antanas Mockus’ mayorship and started emotionally blackmailing them into action.

For this, I present you with two examples. The first, courtesy of that fabulous Freakonomics duo, Messrs Levitt and Dubner, looks at the moral behaviour of nursery school parents in Israel.

Concerned that a few parents were occasionally late collecting their children from nursery, a group of economists decided to test what would happen if those parents were fined around $400 a month for their tardiness. And what did happen? The number of children collected late actually increased. That’s right. By substituting the moral obligation to collect their child on time with a way for the parent to ‘pay off’ their guilt, the economists made it easier for the parents to behave badly.

The same thing happened in Switzerland when researchers were looking into the creation of nuclear waste dumps. Astonishingly, 50% of people asked said they would be willing to have such a disposal in their neighbourhood. Even though they understood the risks, they also realised that the dump had to go somewhere. But when the same population were asked if they would accept an annual payment, equivalent to six weeks wages, in return for living near the dump, only 25% agreed.

It seems the moral obligation to serve your community – in short, to ‘do the right thing’ – has a far greater pull than cold hard cash (and I stole that example from the brilliant Barry Schwartz, so thank you)

One of my friends has two cars so he can avoid Pico y Placa. “How am I supposed to know what the spirit of the law is?” he said when I challenged him. Another time I was in a bar in the Zona T when a guy happened to mention he did the same. “Am I really supposed to use public transport?” he spluttered, astonished.

The trouble is, our public transport can be a pain. The bus drivers can be terrible, the seats too small, the aisles too cramped, the buses too infrequent, the cycleways obstructed, the pavements cracked.

Yet I remain convinced that rich Bogotanos are the very people who could change all that (and by the way sweetheart, you are not stuck in traffic, you are the traffic)

I’ve been called a ‘Champagne Socialist’ and a ‘Limousine Leftie’ more times that I can count (I don’t mind too much about the champagne but I resent the limousine bit because, er, I hate cars) but joking aside I have always believed that privileged people are the best placed to effect social change. Often poorer people have too many personal struggles and not enough opportunities, access to education or time to oversee revolutions, cultural, political or otherwise. You only have to look at your history books to see how many revolutionaries came from the middle classes.

Even our lovely Pedro Claver – who fought so valiantly and practically for the rights of slaves arriving on those 17th century ships to Cartagena – was a graduate who’d been born into a wealthy farming family. As we know, he not only treated sick slaves and gave them food and hope – he also wouldn’t shut up about their struggle. The poor old slaves weren’t being cowardly by contrast, they just weren’t in the same position to do something about their plight.

I think if we combined the political weight, brains and wealth of the upper echelons of our society they could build us a metro to the bloody moon if we wanted. But instead they sit behind the wheels of whatever vehicle they are using to cheat the system and grumble about the bikes, buses and other cars that are blocking their path. Well it’s time we stopped threatening their finances and started appealing to their moral fibre.

The only question is… how?

Like this? You’ll love Colombia a comedy of errors.

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37 Comments

  1. Andrés Guerrero

    Guess it’s a matter of education and of actually understanding what having a car means: the responsibility that goes with it. I do not have a car, I’d hate to have a car and if i had the money to buy a car, I’d certainly get a better bicycle. Why? because I just don’t want to be a part of the problem.
    and anyways, if you can manage to have 2 cars here in Bogota, which is not an easy deed, why not just moving a few blocks nearer your workplace?
    good article 🙂

  2. almadesnuda87

    I have the money to own a car but I just don’t bother, I tried driving and it almost takes me twice as long to get to university, I rather just take Transmilenio. I know people hate it and sometimes I do too, but it takes me to most places in under an hour, and in a city as crowded as this one, that’s saying something. I have a question for you, do you think then that something like congestion charges (which is a system they implemented in Stockholm and other cities to reduce traffic which charges people who take their car downtown) wouldn’t work here? I’m just curious. As usual, lovely blog, Vicky! specially the “by the way sweetheart, you’re not stuck in traffic, you are the traffic” bit.

    1. bananaskinflipflops

      I’m just not convinced financial penalties are the answer. I think most of the time we do the right thing because it’s the right thing, not because we’re afraid of the consequences of doing the wrong thing. Take crime for example – I think most people don’t steal because it’s wrong, not because they’re scared of the legal consequences. Most of the environmental progress we’re making is because people now feel bad about screwing the planet. I think we need to start criticising each other more, campaigning to show people how badly they are behaving and turn having two cars to avoid P&P into a social taboo.

  3. Stan

    You have the most interesting blog. Not only are you a fine writer, but you actually have something very interesting to say. Next time, I am sitting in traffic, I am going to remind myself that I am the problem; I am the traffic. Gracias. Stan

    1. bananaskinflipflops

      When you’re on the bus you don’t mind the traffic so much because you’re not driving, you don’t have to concentrate, you can listen to music, fall asleep, daydream, look at the city around you. I have been on the most ridiculously uncomfortable, packed buses in this city and I still prefer them. I think they are way less stressful than being hunched over a wheel.

      1. Marge

        What I dislike about buses in Bogotá, and something you forgot to mention in your blog (which I otherwise find very accurate), is how you can be so easily mugged in a bus in Bogotá. That’s scary and infuriating. My preferred medium of transportation if my destination’s not within walking distance is the taxi cab (called of course). Otherwise I take those little van-like buses on which smugglers can’t perform.

      2. bananaskinflipflops

        I appreciate comments about security but I think security is a general problem (and not one that is limited to Bogotá). I know bus crime happens but I don’t think it’s an excuse to avoid the bus in the same way car jacking incidents don’t stop people driving. I took a taxi last night after a St Patrick’s Day thing and the guy heavily overcharged me. When I complained about it he said: “Don’t be complicated about this. It would have been worse if I had paseo millionario’d you.” (He honestly said that, unbelievable) Sometimes I think I am safer on the bus!

      3. Pedro

        Insecurity is real, but really which 8 million city in the word doesn´t has it? it is our social exclusion mentality what keep us away from public mass transit. Yes our mass transit in Bogotá needs improvement, but with the lack of pressure or will from the people driving, it will never be done.

  4. James Pengelley (@HairyChef)

    Actually my understanding is not that they would if they could – it’s more like they would if it would make them more money than they currently get by having an imperfect system. As long as the politicians in this country continue to steal from the people, the people will continue to steal from each other. What might happen if people stop stealing from each other, I wonder?

  5. Tigre

    Pico y Placa is a great concept, but ultimately doomed to fail. Surely it must have been anticipated that those who could afford to would buy at lease a second vehicle. Not only does this add to the traffic mess, such purchases add to Bogota’s overall economy with the commission to the sales rep, taxes, registration, insurance, parking, etc. I too know people who absolutely refuse to take public transport of any kind, and it is rather sad. That said, I am sure not all the rich are public transport adverse. There are no easy solutions, but I agree that adding a fine or tax really isn’t the answer. Public education is always a heart-warming idea, but is not really effective. And let’s face it, some people just don’t care. And others absolutely must use their own vehicles daily for professional and personal needs. Perhaps the city should implement a monthly, as opposed to annual, day without a car.

    While I do not ever want to own a car, especially in Bogota, I do take taxis, accept rides and have hired drivers when needed – especially if traveling with a group and a van / bus is needed. But, my transport of choice is the TransMi even though I don’t enjoy being crushed, playing twisted twister, or tripping over someone sitting on the floor. However, if I am able to secure my potion near ventilation and am not too contorted, I find that I can cope quite well. This is due, in great part, to my fellow passengers, who – for the most part – really do try to accommodate eachother.

    Even though TransMi is groaning under the pressure of greater demand and not enough supply, it is still a far better alternative to sitting in a car watching the red buses zip by instead of actually being on one. Is it overcrowded? Yes. Could we do with many more buses? Yes. Should the lanes be fixed? Yes. Do fare jumpers drive me mad? Yes. Does it serve thousands of people a day? Yes. Are there issues? Oh –yes! But, what mass transit system is without them? And, we are getting a real underground at some point (hopefully soon) and a light rail system.

    Let’s all hold on tight because Bogota is about to undergo major infrastructure changes that are going to be like a bionic shot of growth spurts for the next few years. But, when the dust has settled, we will all hopefully benefit from the new transport system and travel easier.

  6. Andres

    “Often poorer people have too many personal struggles and not enough opportunities, access to education or time to oversee revolutions, cultural, political or otherwise.” – Though I do agree in part with your post, it boggles my mind that you can make such a statement as the one I transcribed. Cultural revolution begins, er like Antanas showed, with yourself and your actions. Your statement is nothing but a poor attempt to excuse a large majority of the cities inhabitants from their own civic duty. Which in fact, is as important or more important than owning two cars or not. Such civic duty entails: standing at the bus stop, standing when a pregnant lady enters the Bus Rapid System (Transmilenio), not littering and so on and so forth. If you read a little more, i.e. French Revolution, U.S. Civil war etc., you’d understand that social transformation comes not from the rich but from the poor who tired from the status quo seek a change in the social structure.

    Moreover, you waste your breath with the rich because they profit from the current state of affairs or are so shortsighted that can’t foresee a different state of affairs. Therefore, my suggestion is use your “inteligencia vial” and ask yourself: do you comply with your civic duties as a citizen of Bogota or the city where you live in? (which this post leads me to believe that you do.)

    Consequently, your words will have more impact if you address your words to those “poor people who can’t oversee revolutions” and lead a civic campaign pro the moral fiber you claim. Pardon my french, but you don’t differ much more from those who you criticize, because as they do in Facebook and other social networks, you are just complaining instead of taking action. (Granted, this post is some action, although a futile one for social change.)

    The city and its moral fiber will not change because you write a little blog which demises the population who can change this culture, please read “the poor”. That being said, your post is addressed to the select few who understand and read English, which brings me to the point, you are complaining in the exact same way than the “rich” and not helping the problem at all, not even with this post who can only be read by those who read and speak English. Two thumbs up for the intention though.

    1. bananaskinflipflops

      Hey, thanks for your comment. I don’t want to excuse poorer people from taking action to make change but I am cynical about who has power in this world, although I think that’s probably a debate for another day. While I agree the ‘masses’ are essential for revolution, I don’t think it is as easy for them to lead it. Maybe I’m too cynical but I think the world (politics, big business) is ruled by privileged people and therefore they are the ones best placed to change it, although they need the ‘people’ behind them of course (I apologise for my total lack of political correctness, by the way, I just can’t be bothered to type ‘those in a lower social-economic demographic’ every time, I hope you’ll accept that’s what I mean) I just think if you’re going to fight the establishment at their own game, it’s easier if you have people on the ‘inside’. That doesn’t exclude anyone from being able to ignite social change though and I’ll admit I feel bad as I write it. I guess I’m just looking for the easiest way to get stuff done – in this case, I think a group of rich Bogotanos would have more chance of getting the city a metro (here’s hoping)

      That said, you break my heart a bit. You don’t think social networks can change anything? I’m not saying this blog will (bless it) but there must be a reason a smart dictator always controls his media, why Twitter was shut down during the Arab Spring. This piece specifically focused towards people who have two cars to avoid that little slot in the day when they’re not allowed to drive them. I don’t expect it to change anything but I am not averse to trying to plant a seed…

  7. Not so simple

    If nobody had a second car there would still be a problem. So, no, the rich are not the problem, they are part of it, but its “far too simple” to say that having a second car is the whole problem. You do proove the point that appealing to the moral side of people might be more effective. But appealing to that side doesn’t solve the fact that buses have no schedules or bus stops in Bogota, It doesnt solve overcrowding in transmilenio buses, it doesnt solve insecurity in buses, it doesn’t solve discontinuity of bike lanes, it doesnt solve the lack of propper street sings and road paint, it doesnt solve the lack of efficient street intersections. I’m sorry to be so direct and negative but starting a myth like this could be really bad for the society. I’d encourage you to write another post which doesn’t assume that there is one main problem but rather a collection of them which in the end add up to the situation the city lives right now.

    1. bananaskinflipflops

      I am inclined to agree with you because there is obviously a multitude of problems but it is the two-car attitude that is worse for me than the actual possession of the cars themselves. It says ‘I don’t give a damn about other people and if I can cheat the system, I will’ which I think sets a terrible example in every area of society, not just with transport. Instead if people agreed that we are all responsible for congestion and they used public transport on the days they are supposed they might be more likely to fight to change it. If I am driving around in my car all the time why do I care about insecurity on the buses, the problems with bike lanes, the overcrowding on TransMilenio? But if I fulfilled my moral duty as a citizen and had to live with it, I might be more aggressive about changing it and if I happened to be rich, I might be in a better position to do something about it – I might even have the Mayor’s number on my speed dial.

      I have a weird aversion to bus stops but I probably shouldn’t go into that now. I don’t believe in them. I think they are irritating for bus users, it’s much more convenient to hail the bus outside your house then have him drop you back there on the way past. I would love to see dedicated bus-only lanes with no bus stops on them, so you could just jump on and off the bus route wherever you needed (like a taxi). I accept I am maybe just nostalgic for the London Routemasters but there is nothing more annoying than a) seeing your bus coming but missing it because you aren’t quite at the bus stop (always happened to me in England) or b) wanting to get off your bus because you are stuck in traffic but the bus driver is saying “No, we have to go to the bus stop” which is miles away. I think bus stops are a ‘progress myth’ in this town which serve car drivers more than passengers but I can’t get into it here because people get really angry about bus stops. Saying you don’t believe in bus stops in Bogotá is like saying you hate puppies or something. It’s taboo.

  8. Sol

    Peñalosa said it!!! Thank you for posting this article. It is funny how this bogotanos you describe so well, have also this kind of believe, that they have nothing to do with the traffic issue. I do not usually take the bus, but I ride my bicycle to go almost everywhere. I find it faster, but is also very dangerous, no matter I am cycling on the street or the cicloruta. Car drivers will NEVER stop at a crosswalk, pedestrians use the cicloruta as a runway, and ciclysts dont wear lights at night, or lower down the speed where the cicloruta merges with sidewalks. Not to mentioned that nobody understands the concept of “circulate on your right”, or respects the delimited area that has been assigned to each method of transportation. So everybody complains about the rest, from their own point of view, but nobody contributes from that very same point of view, either: bus users wont stop the bus at the bus stop (they get on and off ANYWHERE, at the most ridiculous, and dangerous, places) ciclysts dont respect the basic safety considerations, not even red lights (which is, by the way, the law… Maybe they dont understand “the spirit” of this law either) pedestrians will circulate around this 11million inhabitants city, as if they were taking a walk along an empty beach, without looking both sides before crossig a street, crossing busy avenues anywhere but at the corner or the red light, blaming ciclyst for using the cicloruta they consider is theirs to walk; and car drivers… Well…. Car drivers are just at the top of this food chain, so who can say anything to them? They have the power of, literally, killing you, if you dont move fast. So, it is not only about a lack of infrastructure, or lousy public transportation, not even education. Because all this complainers, owners of 2 cars, are very well educated, but on the idea that coming from an “estrato 5 or 6” family, puts them above everybody else. They are like loyalty, chosen by God himself, to rule and destroy without suffering the consecuences of their choices. So, why would they care about the traffic issue? That is not their problem, somebody else is supposed to sort that out for them… In the mean time, they buy the 2 mandatory cars, and travel abroad, where they do respect the rules of the “civilized countries” (I’ve heard many times things like “in Europe, cars will stop at crosswalks, even if there is not a red light… So why the F…you dont do the same here??? You’ve seen it before!!!!)
    This is about respecting life, and taking responsability of the contribution each of us living in this city, makes. Bogotá has no rules. Being those rules not just “the law”, but basic rules of conduct, towards respecting life and coexistence. Starting from the fact that people here dont care about the fact that someone may be badly injured or get killed, as the concecuence of not respecting the basic patterns of coexistence (and, yes, pedestrians, you can also cause serious accidents just by walking along a cicloruta) why even expect that those very same people, care about something so complicated and philosophically elevated, as the importance of supporting public transportation??? Oh, no! Using Public transportation is cool in NY, and ridding a bicycle to work, is so fancy in Amsterdam. But here, in Bogotá, those things are for “the other” people, the ones who are not like “us”. If you want buses and ciclorutas to be better, then use them!!!

  9. David Uniman

    The biggest problem right now are Motorcycles, which in cities like Cali are growing at 14% per year (compared to 5% for cars, and 1.2% for population).

  10. dutchguy79

    We actually moved because of the traffic, started a new life in El pueblo bonito que se llaman COTA. No pico y placa, so my wife can go to het job every day with the car and experiences a relaxing 15 minute drive to work and a 15 back. Maybe sounds radical but was the best decision we made in years. I personally love transmilenio and everybody in her family says that I am a crazy gringo, but I just let them. Let them stand in a traffic jam for a good 2 to 3 hours and I will be drinking en mi tienda favorita una cervezita fria.

  11. Ceri

    I think Mexico City once had a Pico y Placa thing going on but no-one takes any notice of it now. We do have one law that shuts down one of the longest streets in the city on Sundays and turns into a bike path – It encourages people to get out and use their bikes instead.

    It’s the same attitude here with public transport though. I taught English to mostly rich folk and the looks on their faces when they found out their teacher was taking public transport to and from class was an absolute picture. A lot of them even arranged it so that I could start taking the company transport to and from class to avoid being with, and I quote, “the different types of people who might not be safe.” … … … Aka “the working class.” Another stunning look when I tell them *I’m* from a working class background.

  12. Ricardo Brill

    Oh dear, you missed the point by so much! First, Pico y Placa decrees that for AT LEAST two days a week you are not allowed to use your car, every other week IT’S THREE DAYS! As a math teacher I shall do the numbers easy for you: you are not allowed to use your car 50% of the time (but you stil have to pay 100% of taxes, plus the (negative) benefit derived from having a capital investment that does not produce 50% of the time). No major in Australia, Sweden or (pick ANY country on your worldglobe) would last a minute in office after expressing in public such a wonderful idea. Good, now you have the numbers. Second: I suppose, you are a Trasmilleno (not: Transmilenio) and/or bike user. Suppose you were decreed you may use neither 50% of the time (and, by the way sweetheart, you are not sitting in an overcrowded bus, you are the crowd). Just think of it: The result would be wonderful: overcrowding of busses would disappear and deathtoll of bikers in Bogotá reduced by 50% instantly! WooW, what a measure! Third: let’s go back to Pito y Plata (yes, you read well: piTo y plaTa = half the times getting caught by a cop means you have to pay a bribery just not to loose everything IN your car, or get it back wrecked, even after paying fines and dues which sometimes amount to millions of pesos, well over five thousand “bucks”, and spending several days ‘haciendo las vueltas’): the idea of prohibiting circulation during rush ours had two obvious results: you get a second car and keep driving as you MUST reach office and home in time and, as a subconsecuence, the spouse who had no car gets to drive, increasing traffic enourmosly during former “low tide” hours. As you can see, Pito y Plata was THE idea to reduce traffic! Just look at statistics on car sales in Bogotá and the INCREASE in traffic jams.
    Why is this decree such a nightmare? First, because it was no solution at all. Second, and worse, because it increased what it was to solve and created more new problems. And third, and sadest, it offered no alternatives (remember the decree that bans you from busses every other day leaving you no other choice than buying a car or walking to and from work?).
    Criticizing is easy. Now I have to come forward with something better:
    1. I do live in Chía, north of Bogotá (my example applies to all suburbs). I do avoid, by all means, driving downtown, I prefer the bus: Flota Chía to Portal del Norte, and from there on trasmilleno. It’s cheaper, it’s faster, maybe even safer in case of an accident. But this is no solution for those who live too far from Flota Chía route. If everclever Peñalosa had linked transmilenio right out of suburbs like Chía, providing for safe and cheap parking lots at which you leave the car for the day and catch the bus, no one would be such fool to drive downtown, exept the riches too “pinchados” to ride the bus, but then again, they would be no problem being the only fools to pay the very high overprice of using the car. And, with such routes of transmilenio, the portales would have half the load. Three problems solved: where to leave the car to ride transmilenio, one bus instead of 80 to 100 cars on already overloaden autopista, and half the public at the portales. No problems added.
    2. Provide for some 15% more busses on Transmilenio and maybe some 30% more policias bachilleres inside the busses, and then, not before, remove completely Pico y Placa. People will soon notice the safer and half empty busses and the overcrowded streets, and switch to public transportation. Another three problems solved: less cars, less pollution and more employment. And no new problems added. Ah, and more cops doing their real job and not busy catching infractors of piTo y plaTa, and less cops filling their pockets with bribes.
    3. Building mandatory bus stops ASIDE the streets, not like all new Avenida Novena (NQS), where but busses HAVE TO stop blocking at least one full lane. Another three problems solved: a more fluent traffic, much easier to controll bus schedules, and less injured people catching or descending from busses. No problems added.
    Yes, all propositions demand a huge amount of work to be done and money to be spent to be implemented, but all tend to SOLVE, not to increase problems.
    And, by the way sweethart, if you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.
    Mind discussing it? Bring it on. Your webmaster can give you my email.

    1. bananaskinflipflops

      Thanks for this. Everything about the tone of your comment says you want a fight, but we agree on many things.

      However, you do point out that people have to pay 100% of the tax on their cars even though they are not allowed to use them 100% of the time. Well what about the taxes they are paying for public transport? Surely they should be more outraged about the money they lose on a sub standard public transport system they don’t use and be fighting to change that instead?

      Secondly, you say Pico y Placa was doomed to fail because people were obviously going to buy a second car to cheat it, because that is the only way they can get to work on time. You then say that Pico y Placa offered no alternatives… and then in the next breath you say you never drive downtown, you prefer the bus! Well, I prefer the bus too and I am always on time for work. I don’t cycle and TransMi doesn’t serve me but you can get anywhere in this town on a bus if you make the effort. If you are too good for the bus then, of course, you need to drive. But don’t pretend there are no alternatives.

      I agree with all your suggestions. We are crying out for more TransMilenio buses. I don’t like bus stops but I would like to see dedicated bus lanes. Buses have one lane, cars have two lanes, taxis are allowed in both, something like that anyway. My aversion to bus stops is a personal peculiarity but I will discuss public transport with anyone because I am a huge nerd about it. I don’t agree with you, though, that we should improve the public transport then ditch Pico y Placa and people would magically make the switch, although I would love that to be true.

      1. Ricardo Brill

        So, so sorry: in no way I want a fight. I apologize if I offended you. What I intented to was state clearly that Pico y Placa is plain nonsense (just like the decree I proposed to reduce overcrowding of busses), and that there are many other ways to better public transportation and traffic flow different from banning cars off the streets. For example: north of Bogotá there must be some 50 schools, all serving their students with bus service, some, as Colegio Andino, with a fleet of 50+ vehicles. All start classes around 7:30 in the morning, so the jam at Calle 170 and Autonorte outwards is a must. But no major has ever attempted to have a meeting with principals to try to reach an aggreement so the 7:30 mark is distributed from 7:00 to 8:00. Many improvements just demand the will to improve things, but then, again, the major and the Concejo would have to sit down and do plain work, the job they were elected for.

      2. bananaskinflipflops

        Haha, no, you didn’t offend me and it is good for me to fight sometimes. I wasn’t sure whether to publish this post (and I’ve written many similar ones I haven’t published) but then I realised that it is so important to me and I really believe it, so why not publish? I do believe in Pico y Placa, even if it doesn’t solve congestion it might one day teach people something about having a responsibility to their community – making a personal sacrifice for the greater good. Those who cheat it have the same mentality as those who see no problem in other forms of corruption – “As long as I’m alright, stuff everyone else.”

        Again, you make some excellent points about congestion and of course the school times should be staggered. My school in England finished 45 minutes after the school next door for exactly this reason.

      3. Pedro

        More than the rich people is the mentality of exclusion… you see it all over your blog: the “flecha” cell phone meaning the “indio” in the most offensive racist term. Then this overly agressive guy stating his right to collect the benefit of his taxes (but I´ll bet you he has 2 cars and in other country his taxes would be way, way higher than he pays in Colombia), but not thinking about the benefit of society (he wants his car). I´ll bet you he also dosn´t believe in public companies because everything private functions better (just see how much taxes Bavaria paid for it´s sale, haha). Transmilenio is overcrowded is because is operating in function of the gain of the operators instead of the people, maybe he should support the “nationalization” or “distritalization” of Transmilenio. But still even with the best mass transit system in place, culturally and because of this society of exclusion (that as he said also justify bribery) many of this guys still would prefer to take their cars… we still have a lot of citizen culture as Mockus said to go…

  13. Sumit Kaul

    Very nice post, actually I think the problem is not rich people, instead the problem is too much drug or illegal money. Check the car prices in Colombia, and you would be surprised, but the car sales never go down.

  14. Tigre

    WoW! What an interesting array of comments. Nothing like the log-jam of traffic to get the blood boiling and the ‘little grey cells’ moving. I wonder what a public transportation forum would yield? It would have to be one where people are actually able to voice their opinions openly and engage in serious debate. This is not a rich vs. every one else issue, it is an issue that all Bogotanos should engage in. Whether sitting in your Mercedes SUV or bouncing on a colectiva, we are all part of the problem and the solution. How do we stop being “drive by critics” and start becoming agents of change?

    1. bananaskinflipflops

      Haha, you know when I worked in the newspaper and we had a dip in readers someone would say “We need a story about traffic, people love traffic,” and it is so true. The difficulty, as always, is turning opinion and passion into action. We have a few ideas and different opinions here, I should probably tweet them to the Mayor although I hope he is already busy trying to get all this sorted. More TransMi buses for a start sir!

  15. Olly

    This is nail-on-head stuff. Don’t want to come across as overly Peñalozista because his opposition to a metro is bizarre, but his speeches on city planning make complete sense and should be force-fed to all car lovers. Basically there are too many cars on Bogotá’s roads (as indeed most Colombian cities – check out Bucaramanga, which is basically tiny but can take over an hour to cross at times), and that has to be a priority.
    The answer is, as mentioned above, is a) much better public transport and b) a change in culture that would stop people taking a car as a status symbol or because they think they’re “above” travelling with the plebs on the bus.

  16. Cory Latimer

    Hey! (I don’t know if you remember me but I got an email invitation to your bday party like a week ago and we exchanged a couple of emails but in the end I never went. Sorry, had other plans)

    I really liked your post. I agree with a lot of what you say and really appreciate your eye for noiticing the small details in the society.

    I will argue one fine point which is that your use of the term ‘rich people’ is not 100% accurate with what you want to express. Historically, rich people were the only ones with the means to own cars – not to mention two of them – but these days it is both the rich and the steadily growing middle class who fall into this catagory of ‘priviledged’ Bogotanos (but its debatable nowadays how priviledged one really is just because they have the economic means to afford a car).

    The difference is that what you would really define as the rich class probably hasn’t grown much during the past few years (those earning more than 1 million USD a year, for example) but the middle class has grown vastly. This means that rich people aren’t as much as a contributing factor to the terrible state of traffic in this regard as the growing middle class is.

    BUT, the economic realities were definitely created by the oligarchs, so the fact that there is no limit to how many cars are sold in the country despite there only being a limited amount of road space IS the fault of the rich class.

    I personally point my finger at the combination of exensive and extreme poverty, a pyramid- structured economic model and a less than wholeistic education system as the real culprits.

    The less than wholeistic education systems teaches peolple to value professional skills, money and monetary success more than the enviroment or social atmospheres. The extensive and extreme poverty as well as the economic model ensures that people will fit into to the society in the ways expected of them in order to obtain employment and status and thereafter keep it even if this means sacrificing some sort of ethical value (not owning two cars out of respect for the environment, for example).

    So, in short, the problem is not a problem created and perpetuated by the rich, but rather a problem resulting due to the overall economic, political and social structures as a whole.

    This being said I simple want to state that I feel I am ‘piggy-backing’ on one particular aspect of your article. I will reiterate that I really enjoyed reading your post. You’re a talented writer.

  17. Alejandro Velasquez Faccini

    Having two cars in Bogota isn’t a problem, the problem is that it’s a small city for such population, and the ones who create the traffic are those ugly public buses who drive like they don’t even care and stop wherever they want to

  18. Ward Anderson

    I like your post. I am from the USA and I wish bogota had a subway system and more green spaces. This is my first visit to your country and I hope to visit more.

  19. bongstar420

    Yep…the “rich” are often the wrong kind of people and are “too rich” relative to the standard distribution of people….and the right kind of people will never be rich because the wrong kind of people like to select their own kind to become or stay rich.

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