Kitzi Hendricks, on mission in Cochabamba, shares her experiences from Bolivia’s second annual National Day of the Pedestrian, an event to raise awareness about the environment.

Missioner Kitzi Hendricks enjoying a rare traffic-free bike ride on the street of Cochabamba

El Día del Peatón is probably one of my favorite days in Bolivia. It is the one day that all motorized vehicles, including public transportation, are banned from the streets of Bolivia and people walk and bike the streets in unity.

When I first heard about Pedestrian Day this past March, I didn’t know what to expect. I could hardly imagine a city that is dependent upon transportation and bustling with all modes of motorized vehicles 24 hours a day to successfully halt all motorized vehicles on the streets.

However, something I learned even before moving to Bolivia still rings as true today as it did the first day I stepped foot on Bolivian land—don’t imagine or expect; rather, observe and learn. Taking this mentality with me, I opened my eyes to the wonders of Pedestrian Day and never looked back.

On a normal day in Bolivia, the exhaust from the streets fills the air in a thick, hovering smoke. The frequent use of car horns resembles a typical afternoon in New York City. Traffic lights and turning lanes are rarely followed and it is common to see cars, motorcycles, and bicyclists cut off at uncannily close lengths. Needless to say, my desire to ride a bike or walk in the streets on a normal basis is as close to null as one can get.

Festival-like atmosphere during Cochabamba’s El Día del Peatón

However, on this unique day, I cannot wait to get my hands on a bike and take time to casually stroll the streets. There’s something so freeing about enjoying the calmness of a road without motors or sauntering the streets without wondering if you are in danger of being run over by a motorized vehicle. I can enjoy the beauty of the Cochabamba streets as fully as possible.

This day is about families, friends, and loved ones. It is full of strollers, hand-holding, laughing, dancing, bicycle riding, and leisurely paces. El Día del Peatón is a day that I save for my friends. We walk, we talk, and we picnic. Most of all, we take the time to enjoy each other’s company in a place that we all proudly call our home.

Children riding bikes. Others pushed toys.

El Día del Peatón is a day that I hope many other countries will be inspired to start. It is a beautiful representation of how we can all contribute to our environment and how an entire nation can come together for a single cause.

Today happens to be Kitzi’s birthday – ¡feliz cumpleaños, Kitzi!