SAO PAULO Ė The historical heart of Sao Paulo was devoid of private automobiles and motorcycles on Friday as Brazilís largest city marked World Car Free Day, an effort to promote the use of public transportation and alternative vehicles such as bicycles.
Only municipal buses, taxis, bicycles and some pedestrians were seen on downtown streets and avenues, usually clogged by virtually all-day traffic jams.
At 6:00 am, authorities blocked a number of major thoroughfares leading to the cityís center, which will remain free of private automobiles and motorcycles until 8:00 pm, according to that metropolisí Traffic Engineering Company.
Sao Paulo, a city of roughly 12 million people, has more than 8 million motor vehicles on the roads, 70 percent of which are private cars, according to local media.
World Car Free Day began in France two decades ago and is linked to European Mobility Week, which aims to encourage people to use collective means of transportation and reflect on the high level of dependency on private vehicles in contemporary societies.
A report by TomTom, an Amsterdam-based maker of navigation and mapping products, found that Sao Paulo commuters experience a 30 percent average increase in travel time when driving at rush hour as opposed to non-congested periods.
Despite Sao Pauloís traffic woes, TomTom ranks Rio de Janeiro as Brazilís most congested city and the eighth most congested on the global list, which is headed by Mexico City.