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Exploring pathways towards more sustainable mobility in Bogota

Through the application of Social Practice Theory (SPT), SEI will analyze the complex interactions of Bogota’s urban transport practices in order to explore the possibilities for intervention.

Active project


Bogota, Colombia is ranked as the most congested city in Latin America and the third worldwide. The average citizen of Bogota spends 272 hours per year in traffic, during peak-hours. This is the cause of several health issues amongst the city’s population, including stress, depression and respiratory diseases (motorized transportation accounts for 58% of the emissions of particulate matter (PM) in the city’s air,  well above the recommended standards set by the WHO).

In 1998, the pico y placa policy was implemented to restrict the circulation of private cars and to counteract the congested mobility and the serious air pollution in the city; in order to discourage car use and based on the vehicle’s plate number, cars are not allowed to transit every other day during peak-hours and fines are given to the drivers that don’t comply with this regulation. However, the number of private cars nearly tripled since 2002. 

In this regard, it has been argued that pico y placa restrictions have the unintended result of incentivizing the purchase of second cars, so that drivers can use a different vehicle when their plate is restricted, undermining the effectivity of the policy.

The pico y placa regulation corresponds to what Elizabeth Shove (2010) labels as the “ABC” (attitude, behaviour, and choice) mode of governance, which formulates policies under the assumption that human behaviour is dictated through rational choice. As an alternative to the rational choice model, Social Practice Theory (SPT) has been proposed as a robust theoretical approach to understand the complex socio-technical systems behind transportation and inform policymaking to promote sustainable mobility; it can help identify points of intervention for policymaking that are ignored by individualistic approaches.


The goal of this project is to use SPT to analyze the complex interactions of Bogota’s urban transport practices in order to explore the possibilities for intervention. It will identify a heavily transited commuting corridor in the city as a case study to find which are the defining elements of the practices which will reveal urban mobility challenges and open up questions for transport mode transitions.

The outputs from this first analysis will then be used in a participatory workshop with relevant stakeholders (including politicians, city planners and users of the different transport modes in the city).

This will be an opportunity to engage with city planning in Bogota. The city will undergo large infrastructure projects to expand its public transport system within the next 10 years (including a subway line). Also, this project will allow to explore the possibility to connect SPT with other SEI work that deals with behavioural change, such as the Behaviour and Choice initiative.

SEI Team

Efraim Hernández

Research Associate

SEI Latin America

Ivonne Lobos Alva

Team Leader: Sustainable Transitions; Senior Expert

SEI Latin America

Mario Cárdenas

Research Associate

SEI Latin America

Juan Camilo Betancur Jaramillo

Research Assistant

SEI Latin America

Diane Archer

Senior Research Fellow

SEI Asia

Natalia Ortiz

Communications Officer


SEI Latin America

Fiona Lambe
Fiona Lambe

Senior Research Fellow

SEI Headquarters

Steve Cinderby

Senior Research Fellow

SEI York

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