Bogota – A sustainable city

Sustainable Living introduced in the city of Bogota

How could a modern way of life that threatens our planet to have become our way of life?

Opportunities to reinvent and redesign

Could poverty be connected by hope through way of design?

America has huge inequalities. People migrating from rural areas to the cities has increased considerably.


In 100 years, Bogota grew from 100,000 persons to 7 million. It has grown in an illegal way.

There is lack of infrastructure, quality, security and safety. No good leaders. They had no direction. They had no money for the progress of the city. The quality of life in Bogota was the worst in Columbia and Latin America. People hated Bogota for what it was. It was a city without hope and self esteem.

City Design

They wanted to make a city for the people and not for cars. Changing the way of life was the focus of the designers in Bogota. It was believed that Sustainable Urban design will lay the foundation for social justice. The way we design cities would have an impact on our lifestyles which would determine our happiness and well being.

For example: Amsterdam

As it is said, fish needs to swim, we need to walk not in order to survive but be happy. For 5000 years, we had pedestrian streets only. So when cars appeared, the street should have been divided into two halves; half for cars and the other half for pedestrians to keep the balance.

Designers thought that correcting this enormous error was a necessity and could only be achieved by putting some restriction to car use.

Every Sunday, in Bogota 120km of main arteries are closed from 7 am to 2.00pm in the afternoon. All people are brought together and all the vehicles are blocked. This helps people to interact with each other. This has been going on every Sunday since 1982 and has been growing since then. This is a way in which they are trying to reduce car use in Bogota by getting people to cycle on the main streets on Sundays.


What did Japan do?

They built 7 elevated highways to help control the increasing traffic which was worth 5 billion usd.

What existed in Bogota before?

  • Extremely chaotic transport
  • Lot of traffic cars
  • Accidents
  • Public transport was in the hands of a Mafia.

Then, this was finally taken up and managed by local authorities. So, a change in bus system was brought about which was copied from the bus system in Curitiba, Brazil.

Transmilenia – the best bus system in the world.

Transmilenia has become an emblem of Bogota. Bogota is now known by Transmilenia. It has kind of helped build the personality of the city.

Bus systems are not just a part of engineering. They have to be appealing to the public.

(Colour, the facilities, the design and the name)

Now, people in Bogota say, they are taking a Transmilenia and not taking a bus.

There are two types of systems:

There are exclusive corridors for articulated buses with a capacity of 160 passengers which cover the city’s peripheral areas. Green buses with a smaller capacity of 90 passengers feed the main Transmilenia system. That is why we have denominated this system “Trunk fed”.

In those areas, where there are small numbers of citizens and articulated buses can’t get access to, green buses are sent to pick them up and take them to bus stations.

It is saving people 200 hours a year in transportation. People are able to go farther. About 300,000 people save about 10% of income because before they had to buy two passes whereas now they can use the same pass to change the bus.

Transmilenia uses satellite communication. It means that during their operation, they can locate them via satellite and keep control of each and everyone of the vehicles in real time.

bogota 1

What does this mean?

It means that the system always runs to capacity. We have got rush hours during morning and evening and in between hours, we also see the system run to capacity because we reduce the number of operating buses to prevent buses from circulating empty.

That allows us to have control over the development of the infrastructure, its maintenance and to have control over the emissions which are not good for the environment and unnecessary when you have empty buses running. Each city should dictate that human beings are sacred. It is the most important element.

They designed large sidewalks with ramps.

How people reacted?

The city looks pretty but they have not given a thought to the parking facility. There are very few streets with car parking facilities and there they put “NO PARKING” signs. They created projects, walking programs, bike lanes but it does not help me, says a bike rider from Bogota. “The bike lanes don’t help me as a store owner because the bike rider is not going to buy a shirt or a suit from me.”

Understanding that public interest coming before our private interests is difficult for people to digest. But people have to live with the new change and should make sacrifices for the betterment of the life in the city.

It takes huge amounts of money to make the elevated highways and flyovers. 1 million persons in Bogota live in misery at less than 1$ per day. So, should the monetary contribution be done to the people?

The author feels it is even immoral to invest in highways when we are aware that 1 million people are starving. The squatter settlements were cleared. Pedestrians streets, schools, nurseries were built. It has the longest pedestrian street in Latin America. It is a part of social fabric. It connects 3 million residents.

Felipe Gonzalez and Juan Ignacio Munoz Tamayo

It runs all around the city making several connections.

Connecting Trans Milenio

(Three of main lines of transmilenio are connected)

  • The Big parks in Bogota
  • Schools
  • Libraries

It was designed for easy mobility but people use it for recreation as well.

17km long walkway

People get friendly with each other. That develops a sense of security and results in the reduction of crime rate. JIMT says it is important to analyze the problems and be able to generate appropriate solutions.

Can we expect people to accept our design strategies?

–          From the example of Bogota, it is evident that if people enjoy what we plan to give them, they will happily accept it.

–          For this, understanding the mindset of the people is important

–          Recording lifestyles

–          Identifying issues and finding appropriate solutions

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