Bogotá quarantine: It wasn’t all bad, was it?

By Oli Pritchard August 28, 2020

The lockdown in Bogotá was tedious and lengthy, but there were silver linings among the clouds. Our columnist looks at five things we should hold on to in the brave new reality.

Empty streets might now be behind us. Photo: Oli Pritchard

As the city starts to emerge from over five months of lockdown, there are a few positives worth noting. For starters, the ICU system in Bogotá didn’t collapse. That’s a positive. Other than that, here are some of the things don’t want to see slide back to the way things were. After all, the benefits of a less traffic-clogged city are plain to see, if nothing else!

Read our latest coverage on the coronavirus in Colombia

1. Traffic

Bogotá without traffic jams and chaos is a much, much nicer place, as everyone notes every Christmas. The months of lockdown have been much the same. Air pollution never drops as much as you might think, but visual and aural pollution have decreased a lot. Crossing the road has gotten easier and there’s a sense that the city is currently concerned about who’s here, rather than who’s passing through to somewhere else. There’s a danger here that with the return to offices there’ll be a return to cars. Fingers crossed all round that doesn’t happen.

2. New bike lanes

With a decrease in motor traffic, there’s been an increase in cycling. And thankfully, this one is definitely here to stay. We had our doubts, but happily, we were proved to have been a little too paranoid and the temporary bike routes have been painted in. That’s a real result in a car-obsessed city. The demand is there – bike shops have faced incredible demand as some of the TransMilenio commuters have moved to pedal power rather than gas guzzlers. Let’s hope that Bogotá can take advantage of its cycling culture for once.

3. No chit-chat

With masks on, it’s much harder to engage in frivolous and needless social interaction. Also, the increased biosecurity levels in shops have helped this. In general, there’s a lot less casual friendliness going on, which is making life a great deal simpler. Shop queues whistle by as customers shuffle off worriedly rather than enquiring as to the local gossip. Maybe I’m a grump [Maybe? -Ed], but a little more efficiency in daily life would be no bad thing from my point of view.

4. Exercise

With limited options for getting out of the house, there’s been a noticeable uptick in daily joggers around here. That’s got to be a positive in a country with rampant levels of diabetes. In general, it’s probably a good idea to stick with the exercise, especially at a time when we’ve been reminded of the limitations of the EPS system. Even when bars open, you can still get out for a jog midweek, especially if there’s no commute to deal with.

5. Local shops for local people

With tiendas being somewhat more flexible about pico y cédula, they’ve provided a valuable service for people getting their timings wrong or unexpectedly needing a last minute item. These cornerstones of local life would be sorely missed if they disappeared, so maybe it’s worth popping in if you’ve only a few items on your list.