Pico y Placa

Medellín prides itself on being a forward-thinking city. It pulled itself up from being the most dangerous city in the world to its current state of relative peace and safety by embracing the newest and poorest citizens living on the periphery. It fosters innovation of all kinds, as exemplified by the Experimental Technologies group I volunteer with. And it’s taking significant action to address the problem of pollution that it currently faces.

Measurements show Medellín as having 26 micrograms of PM2.5 particles per cubic metre (annual mean) compared to 15 in Tokyo and London and only 9 in New York. That’s still lower than many South American cities, but it is much higher than the WHO recommended limit of 10, so the government is taking steps to reduce it.

The largest contributor is traffic pollution, and ‘pico y placa’ restrictions were recently implemented throughout the city. I can’t translate the term exactly, but it means that only vehicles with certain number plates (eg odds or evens) can be used on certain days. Medellin is far from the first city to implement these restrictions, but it is the first city I’m aware of to ban private vehicles entirely, which happened today.

Given how hard a time I had trying to get a photo with only buses and taxis, and with police taking no action against the others I saw, I assume that business vehicles are exempt as well. But as you can see from the empty streets, I had much fewer misleading blinkers to navigate when crossing the road.

Live measurements show PM2.5 particles down to 15 micrograms per cubic metre, so the action certainly worked.

Categorized as Colombia

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