Bogota's streets traffic-free as private cars banned for the day

Cyclists ride their bicycles during "No Car Day" in Bogota

BOGOTA (Reuters) - Residents of Colombia's capital Bogota took to bicycles, scooters, buses and taxis for their Thursday commutes, as the city banned private cars in a bid to boost greener transport.

The city's car and motorcycle-free day is a long-running regular initiative by the mayor's office meant to encourage residents to choose more sustainable and environmentally-friendly ways of getting around.

Peddling alongside commuters were mayor Claudia Lopez and Energy Minister Maria Fernanda Suarez.

"Let's make ourselves part of the transformation of the city and the planet," Lopez said on Twitter.

Delivery vehicles, school buses and armored cars for officials are allowed to keep on driving. Ride-hailing services Beat and DiDi were off the road until 9 p.m., when the ban is lifted.

During the normally congested morning rush hour, the usual cacophony of car horns was replaced by the light ringing of bicycle bells as a strong Andean sun beat down on the city.

Some 1.8 million private vehicles and 460,000 motorbikes were left at home, according to figures from the mayor's office.

Dentist Ricardo Menestry, 60, who bikes to work every day, said the initiative had pros and cons but that he was mostly in favor.

"Not all of my patients will arrive today," he said, attributing the expected fall in attendance to people putting off appointments until they can come by car.

But it is also good to do something for the environment, he added.

"It's a way of working with the planet, I'm around 75% in favor," Menestry said. "They could do it a couple more times a year, but only a couple."

Not everyone was as enthusiastic.

Olga Cristancho, 42, who runs a snack stall selling coffee and cookies and usually commutes from the city outskirts on the back of her husband's motorbike, said her trip to work had been harder than usual.

"I had to get up really early to get the bus," she said. "I have never seen a queue so big."

Cristancho said business in the morning had been slow, possibly because people who usually rely on using their own cars or motorbikes had decided not to make the journey to work.

"There aren't any traffic jams but it makes things difficult for many people," she said.


(Reporting by Oliver Griffin; Editing by Chris Reese)