The road to hell is paved: Don’t drive cars

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It’s World Car-Free Day! Stop driving. It feels great.

It’s mostly a coincidence of timing, but I came across news about these protests in Bolivia. It’s a good chance to look a bit at one of those parts of the planet from which we hear so little reporting.

Here are some English-language links:

Indigenous Bolivians march against Amazon road

Rainforest Road Will Have Environmental and Cultural Impacts
Bolivia: Marching for Land Rights, Dignity and Social Change
Evading indigenous consultation in Bolivia
Indigenous Protests Oppose Amazon Highway in Bolivia

I have a million things to say about this situation. I have no idea if this is a good or bad road. I don’t know if it will be the nightmare of death and destruction currently predicted, or whether it will turn out pretty well, like the similar road across Peru (my article about my trip down that road in March is here). If you want to read what the local activists say in their own words, click here and read. You do speak Spanish, right?

Just a few things to keep in mind as you read. The sitation is always more complex than it looks. A single household may see gains and losses from a project like this, so imagine how complex it gets when entire communities and ecosystems are doing the cost-benefit analysis. That said, it wouldn’t hurt to have such analysis. These IIRSA roads have been quite impressive in that from all I can tell, they are getting built with very little analysis to ensure that they minimize environmental and social disruption. Several people, including those who favor the road, told me that the Peru road was built without any environmental impact analysis. That shouldn’t be the case in the modern world. People shouldn’t have to resort to direct action in order to be heard.

Meanwhile, for those of you who would like to help the global environment, from the Amazon to the Arctic and from the basement rock to the upper atmosphere, please take part in World Car-Free Day. Motor vehicles are a place where personal changes make a real difference. Cars suck. Ride a bike.


6 thoughts on “The road to hell is paved: Don’t drive cars

    1. sapitosetty Post author

      You appear to be in Portland, so I don’t know if you have ever actually tried to ride a bike in Caracas. I did almost every day for three years, and trust me, it’s fine. If you have a real question, please feel free to ask.

      1. elm43

        I am in Portland. Where the use a bike instead of a car argument is actually reasonable. I am Venezuelan and part of my family lives in Caracas (Oeste-el paraiso). Riding a bike there is just ludicrous. You probably rode a bike every day somewhere near altamira or something.

        Anyways, I actually agree with you, use a bike instead of car-when possible however. Which is not the case in many places in the 3rd world.The irony of it all is that I have actually never driven a car!!!.

        1. sapitosetty Post author

          El Paraiso is pretty good for biking. I knew a fair number of cyclists who lived around there, Puente Hierro, and up into 23 Enero. Being an escualido and all, I did indeed ride to work mostly in Baruta and Chacao, but I’m not convinced that it’s any better to be on Av Principal Las Mercedes than on the similar-sized streets around Santa Monica or Los Chaguaramos.

          The great things about cycling in Caracas are that cars are mostly going very slow, so you don’t have to worry much about high-speed collisions, and that drivers are very aware and even scared of two-wheeled vehicles. They all think you’re a motorizado, and they give you plenty of room. Seriously, in some ways it was much less stressful than riding here in Santiago. The big difference is that Santiago has ciclovías, which while not utopias, are better for cycling than most streets.

          Enjoy Portland! And thanks for reading!

        2. Kepler


          I live in Belgium and I agree with Elm. It is about crime mostly, though.

          You remind me of a guy who came from a slum in Caracas to Brussels and told us crime was not that bad there because nothing had happened to him and he had lived his whole life in a slum…strange grasp on probabilities (I didn’t have a problem, so, the Earth is like I see it).

          You were one of the 14 bikers in Caracas. Just imagine that became a routine for more people. You will start getting numbers of people getting robbed. It is evolution, man…and in Venezuela thieves, violent thieves, are the preferred species…they may not attack a new group when that group has a novelty, when they are more surprised than anything to see them, but they will.

          Some years ago I went to the centre of Valencia and a couple of thieves told me to give them the money because they had a weapon (I could not see). I was just coming from Europe. I looked at them in the face and told their leader: no seas marica (yeah, not marico, which had a bigger effect). I then turned and went on walking. I was a lucky bastard. Had they seen me again they would have beaten me or shot at me if they really had a gun. I escaped only because it was such a surprise.

          Venezuela is no way for bikers until crime has been reduced to more tolerable levels.

          As for the rest: I am all for bikes here and in North America and in Chile.

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