mobility has become one of the main issues affecting the quality of life of Colombians.
And it is not for less, because according to international statistics several cities of our country are among the most congested in the world and three of them appear in the first places where more hours were lost in traffic jams during in 2021.
This is why local administrations have decreed measures such as the pico y placa, which is becoming more and more severe, as in Bogotá and Medellín, where the restriction lasts practically all day.
But this has not been enough to prevent us from wasting hours in detention on the streets of our cities with no chance of moving forward.
Each driver in the country’s capital lost 94 hours last year in traffic jams, while in the capitals of Antioquia and Valle del Cauca it was 53 and 51 hours, respectively. This, according to data from the company Inrix, which analyzes mobility in the world.
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In other words, the time lost in the capital, for example, is the same as that spent watching 62 soccer games without counting the added time. It is even almost the same as seeing a World Cup, because in this contest 64 commitments are played.
Bogotá is in 12th place worldwide –it is the first in Latin America–, Medellín in 94 and Cali in 109. The list is led by London ( United Kingdom), Paris (France) and Brussels (Belgium), with 148, 140 and 134 hours lost in 2021, respectively.
And not only do those who drive a private vehicle lose hours in traffic jams, but also those who travel by bus and van.
According to Ricardo Montezuma, an expert in mobility, this situation occurs in our country, basically, for three reasons: “We have not been able to order the cities. We have not been able to generate the accessibility infrastructure. I would say that there is another structural factor and it is the disastrous way in which we drive, such precarious forms of driving linked to violence and road insecurity. We have very disorderly ways of driving.”
For example, explains the expert, Bogotá is a structurally blocked city, it is a city that has very few entrances and exits. However, this is repeated in most capital cities of the country.
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Precisely For the expert, these three aspects are the ones that should be focused on in order to solve mobility problems, which are one of the main concerns of citizens.
Regarding the pico y placa that were implemented in Bogotá and Medellín, for Montezuma these do help mobility, but it can have “harmful” effects in terms of the purchase of motorcycles and other “older, obsolete and polluting” cars, said the expert, adding that “it helps, but not the change is structural.”
Darío Hidalgo, who is also an expert in mobility, agrees with this: “Vehicle restrictions are measures that solve the issues in the short term, but they do not generate structural solutions. In fact, many people who have the possibility pay to drive or buy another vehicle.”
In addition, there is controversy because in these two capitals you can pay to be exempt from the restriction.
Are there many cars and few roads in Colombian cities?
Other debate that has been raised to improve mobility in the country, beyond restrictions such as the pick and tag, is that we have many cars and few roads. There are those who say that there is nowhere to go.
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According to the Single National Traffic Registry (Runt), as of December 2021 there were 17,020,451 vehicles in Colombia, of which 10,136,593 are motorcycles and 6,701,970 are cars, vans, trucks, buses, vans and dump trucks. The remaining percentage corresponds to machinery, trailers and semi-trailers, which are 181,888.
In 2019, the total registrations in Colombia were 15,337,965 and in 2020 they were 16,043,484. Practically one million new means of transport are registered each year in the country.
The number of vehicles has grown by more than 50 percent over the last 10 years, since in 2011 there was a record of 7,220,219 in the country. And currently the majority are in Bogotá, with 2,626,905.
“We have a high level of road congestion that is reflected in lost hours. This is driven by a rapid increase in vehicle ownership,” said Hidalgo.
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For him, the park The automotive industry has grown considerably during the last 10 years, but there have been no major improvements in infrastructure for the circulation of vehicles. However, he also believes that building more roads is not the solution to the problem, as this could even generate more traffic, as many would be motivated to purchase a vehicle.
he argues that “attractive” solutions for citizens should be proposed. “On the one hand, we must improve access to cities. Although we need very attractive alternatives. That public transport improves, but also the opportunity to go on foot and by bicycle”. trouble. “We have a lot of old obsolete cars. We do not have many cars if we compare ourselves with other countries, although there will be a lot, it will continue to grow, it will not stop. We do have a lot of motorcycles, motorcycles are a more serious problem for me than even cars. The motorcycles seem to have no regulation,” Montezuma said.
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The Medellin Mayor’s Office points out that the Plan of Territorial Ordering (POT) are focused on improving and strengthening, in the first order, non-motorized modes and public transport. Proof of this is that the tender for the third line of the Metro has already been opened.
“It should be noted that the city has a fleet of approximately 1,788,000 vehicles, where the road network along the densification of the city itself and due to topographical conditions it does not grow at the same rate as vehicles do, a situation that generates a phenomenon of significant congestion”, commented Víctor Hugo Piedrahíta Robledo, Undersecretary of Mobility of Medellín.
And he added that another problem is that culturally there is a perception that the private vehicle represents the best way to get around and “that is why the invitation from the Municipality is to discourage the use of the private vehicle and bet on sustainability”.
The delay in each journey is also worrying
On average, a trip by private car in our country lasts 45.57 minutes, according to information from the Numbeo platform.
This figure is made taking as a reference each journey reported to this platform. While there are trips that can last 10 minutes, others can last more than an hour. In other words, there may be people who take up to 45 minutes to go to work and another 45 to return home.
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This indicator in Bogotá is above the national average, as it reaches 52.13 minutes. This makes it the Latin American city with the worst weather -followed by Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) and Mexico City (Mexico).
As for the other cities in the country, the journey time is considerably reduced when compared to Bogotá. However, experts explain that this is due to the size of the territory. On average, a trip by car in Medellin lasts 36 minutes, while in Cali and Barranquilla it takes 35 and 27.67 minutes, respectively.
Furthermore, it is necessary to see who are spending more time on the routes. Experts say that the lower class is the most affected.
Numbeo also collects information from some intermediate cities, such as Manizales, where each tour lasts 12 minutes.
This is what drivers think about mobility in Bogotá, Medellín and Cali
Drivers in these cities agree that getting around by car is becoming increasingly complex and point out that if public transport were more accessible, they could get out of the car more often.
Alejandro Álvarez, who travels frequently between the north and south of Medellín and its metropolitan area, says that entering the southern municipalities, such as Envigado, is increasingly complex, both through main and alternate roads, regardless of the time . This, many times, can take up to an hour, but it is also a journey that could be done in 25 minutes if the traffic is flowing, but it is something infrequent.
From Cali, Kevin López says that one of the problems of the mobility is that there is no respect on the roads, something that worsened after the national strike.
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“People no longer respect the roads, they get into the wrong lane, they pass the traffic lights”. These situations, he explains, can end in accidents that ultimately cause traffic jams.
Antonio, who works as a driver for a private company in Bogotá, says that the all-day pick-up truck has improved mobility in the city.
However, he finds the number of hours lost in traffic jams.
“It’s a long time and most of it causes stress,” he explained. For him, it is not possible to walk on roads like the NQS, so he prefers to always travel along the 68. But he is emphatic when saying that “we lack a lot of civic culture when it comes to driving.”
Other drivers of Bogotá indicate that with the works that are being carried out in the capital, the journeys are increasing. And they add that when the Metro works begin, it will be worse. They narrate for a route between the north and the Center you have to leave an hour in advance to arrive on time, but they fear that the weather will get worse.
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Faced with this problem, experts indicate that the authorities must invest more in infrastructure, better conditions must be guaranteed in public transport, so that getting out of the car is not so annoying for those who are accustomed to traveling in your own vehicle. But citizens must also contribute to the solution by having a better road culture.