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Bolivia enjoys its 18th annual car-free day nationwide - 4th September


With Bolivia banning cars for the day with the exception of emergency vehicles, cities across the country saw a massive decline in pollution levels.

The event first began 18 years ago in Cochabamba, one of the most polluted cities in Latin America. Since then it has spread to become a national day to tackle the increasing number of cars which Bolivia’s population currently owns. In 2011 it got its official name, “Day of the Pedestrian and Cyclist in Defence of Mother Earth”.

Residents claim the difference of air quality is noticeable as figures show that pollution drops by up to 70% on car-free days due to the large amount of pollution which originates from vehicles. Some days can have as much as 100 parts per cubic meter of pollution, whereas the car-free days drop to nearly zero.

Some parts of the country now enforce car-free days 3 to 4 times per year. Bolivia’s capital La Paz also uses this day as a chance to promote participation in sports and becoming more active. With nearly three-quarters of Bolivia’s population working informally, vendors take over the streets on these days, causing a larger number of the consumption of plastic packaged food and drinks.

Local residents have found a number of benefits as they do not feel inconvenienced by the scheme, they really enjoy the days of peace and quiet which also becomes a safe place for kids to play. People have also found it becomes much easier to see the country’s beauty when there are no cars on the roads. The day is also a great opportunity to teach the population about the environmental and health benefits of using cars less and cutting air pollution.

Bolivia hopes in the future there will be parts of the country which are for bikes and pedestrians only to encourage people to walk and cycle more, as some people have found the roads are currently too dangerous to cycle on as there is too much traffic.

Bolivia is very focused on becoming a more sustainable country, which subsequently means using cars less and becoming more active.

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