Bolivia strikes blow against car culture

Cars and buses were taken off the streets of Bolivia as the country held its first “National Day of the Pedestrian” on Sunday Sept. 4. All motor vehicles, including public transport, were banned for the day in cities across the country, as the streets were given over to youth festivals and sporting events. Said La Paz Mayor Luis Revilla: “We are enjoying this day in homage to the environment, but also and above all in homage to pedestrians. The city is not only for vehicles, but also for people.”

President Evo Morales started the day with a morning jog, and joked that his vice president could not keep up with him. “Children and young people should take over the streets to do sports,” he said. “But I’m sorry that our vice president was left behind.”

The move comes as the Morales government faces a controversy over a new road into the Amazonian region of Beni, which has sparked protests by indigenous groups. Vice President Alvaro García Linera responded to criticisms that the Pedestrian Day was a publicity stunt to divert attention from the Beni protesters’ cross-country march on La Paz, now underway. “Here is an unwavering commitment to protect the environment. We have 17 million hectares, that is an area bigger than Belgium, that are reserves,” he said. “We strive to protect Mother Nature but we also want to create mechanisms for the integration of people. This is the balance we seek.” (BBC News, Bolivia Prensa, Sept. 4)

See our last posts on Bolivia, and the global car culture.

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