Día del Peatón - Pedestrian Day in Cochabamba

One Sunday every four months Cochabamba celebrates “Pedestrian Day,” a surreal phenomenon when all streets in the city are closed to motor traffic (except emergency vehicles) and residents take to the streets en masse. Side streets remain tranquil and quiet, with dogs sleeping on the pavement and the only sounds are children playing soccer on fresh asphalt fields.

Major thoroughfares are filled with dance groups, live music, children’s’ rides and of course a huge variety of food. Families and friends gather, grab bicycles and head to the fume-free streets for a day of healthy fun in this fair city.

The strangely deserted streets of Cochabamba beneath its iconic Cristo de la Concordia

The strangely deserted streets of Cochabamba beneath its iconic Jesús Cristo

The Día del Peatón holiday started in thirteen years ago in response to the choked streets of Cochabamba and to raise consciousness about fossil fuel pollution in this especially congested city.

From the start it was a huge success and something residents now look forward to and genuinely enjoy.  Today an estimated 300,000 citizens, young and old, fill the city’s streets.  A study this year determined that contamination levels are 80% lower on Día del Peatón, reason indeed to leave the house and breathe in some much cleaner air.

Bicyclists aren't the only traffic on Pedestrian Day, even a pony and young rider gets in on the action!

Bicyclists aren’t the only Pedestrian Day traffic, even ponies get in on the action!

So popular is Cochabamba’s outdoor celebration that earlier this year the national government passed Law 150, El Día Nacional del Peatón y del Ciclista en Defensa de la Madre Tierra (National Day of the Pedestrian and Cyclist in Defense of Mother Earth) . This law, championed by the newly-created Bolivian Ministry of Mother Earth, institutes this fossil fuel holiday throughout Bolivia.  On this day, no motor vehicles are allowed anywhere in Bolivia and cities throughout the nation are spared honking horns and automobile pollution.

As a walker, hiker and bicyclist enthusiast, this is something to celebrate!

Thanks to the ban on motor vehicles, I was able to go for a pleasant run with my roommate on our street Calle La Paz.

Thanks to the ban on motor vehicles, I was able to go for a pleasant run with my roommate on our street Calle La Paz.

 

Lots of community organizations and groups set up in the streets. Here the Red Cross sets up a mobile wellness (and condom distribution) center.

Lots of community organizations and groups set up in the streets. Here the Red Cross sets up a mobile wellness (and condom distribution) center.

 

Bicycle repair stations conveniently located on the main boulevards. They help ensure that flat tires don't keep people from the street fun.

Bicycle repair stations conveniently located on the main boulevards. They help ensure that flat tires don’t keep people from the street fun.

 

Celebrants stop to watch the Bolivia-Peru soccer match on the wide screen at Dumbo's on the normally congested Prado Avenue.

Celebrants stop to watch the Bolivia-Peru soccer match on the wide screen at Dumbo’s on the normally congested Prado Avenue.

 

Pedal-powered vehicles aren't limited to two wheels on Pedestrian Day... ¡ándate pues, niño!

Pedal-powered vehicles aren’t limited to two wheels on Pedestrian Day… ¡ándate pues, niño!

2 Responses to Día del Peatón: When Pedestrians Power the Streets of Cochabamba

  1. Mark says:

    Great idea. They do the same thing in Madison, WI, twice a year, but only a few of the downtown roads.

    • Peter says:

      I am not surprised they do that in Madison, it being one of America’s most progressive cities. They got it goin’on. Go Big Red!

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