Venezuelan citizens took to the streets of Caracas yesterday as part of the government’s “Caracas Free Wheeling” campaign, a plan aimed at reducing the unnecessary use of cars and promoting a healthier lifestyle for residents of the nation’s capital.
With a slogan of “the car is turned off and you get active”, the campaign began on the 25th of March and involves the closing of roads across the city from 7 am to 3 pm every Sunday so that cyclists, runners and skaters can have free rein over the capital – without worrying about Caracas’ infamously hectic traffic.
So far the Venezuelan government has spent over 30 million bolivars ($US 6.976 million) as part of an initiative to take back areas of the capital city for its citizens, with “Caracas Free Wheeling” being the latest project launched. Open air gyms and children’s parks have also been built across sectors of Caracas.
Jorge Rodriguez, the Mayor of Caracas, said the project’s goal is to create spaces of “enjoyment and recreation” in the capital, and to “re-create a different city to that rushed metropolis which is full of cars”.
“Caracas is different if you travel it by bicycle, walking in the city is wonderful. There are spaces which have been recovered by the revolution for the enjoyment of all Caracas residents and visitors,” he added.
Venezuelan families turned out in droves yesterday to take advantage of the closed roads, either bringing their own bicycles or borrowing one of the 200 government bicycles made available through a joint manufacturing project with Iran.
“We want to promote the use of bicycles and skates, to encourage people to walk freely in the streets,” said Manuel Valera from the Urban Guerrilla Cycling collective, who praised the initiative.
“You get to know Caracas in a totally different way and you fall in love with it,” he added.
The government hopes to keep progressively increasing the amount of “car-free areas” throughout the city, eventually bringing the total amount of routes to 17.5 kilometres. Another cycle path was opened yesterday, giving Caracas residents the option of three different routes spanning a distance of 8km.