In Cartagena, Colombia, a pivotal change is underway to change the historic horse carriage tourist attraction. On January 3, 2024, Councilman Javier Julio Bejarano brought forth a proposal in the Cartagena Council to initiate a pilot plan for electric cars. This plan is designed to replace the city’s iconic horse-drawn carriages, aiming to preserve the historic charm while embracing modern, sustainable practices.
Merging traditional horse carriages with modern electric technology
The plan involves constructing ten electric carriages, styled to reflect Cartagena’s colonial heritage. The District of Cartagena is set to finance this initiative, including the cost of driving licenses for the current carriage drivers. The project’s goal is to collaborate with the Cartagena Association of Carriage Drivers, ensuring a smooth transition and maintaining the livelihoods of those dependent on this sector.
Councilman Bejarano’s proposal is not just about replacing the horse-drawn carriages but also about improving the working conditions for drivers and the welfare of the horses. The electric carriages are expected to offer more flexible operating hours and expand the areas accessible to tourists in Cartagena.
Reactions and challenges: Steering towards consensus
Initially, the Association of Cartagena Carriage Drivers expressed reservations about the electric carriage initiative. Their concerns centered around the legal and regulatory aspects of using electric vehicles for public passenger services. According to Colombia’s Law 336 of 1996, public transport vehicles must be registered and meet specific safety and mechanical standards.
Subsequent discussions with Mayor Dumek Turbay led to a more collaborative approach. The carriage drivers’ association agreed to participate in developing a new model that would replace horse-drawn carriages while preserving the traditional carriage structure.
Mayor Turbay has emphasized the importance of this transition, inviting the carriage drivers to actively engage in selecting the most suitable and beneficial option for the city.
Broader implications for Colombia
This initiative in Cartagena coincides with a legislative proposal at the national level. The Colombian Congress is deliberating on Bill 183 of 2022, aimed at banning the use of animals for pulling tourist vehicles. This bill, which has passed the first debate in the Chamber of Representatives, encourages municipalities and districts to find alternative methods to animal-drawn vehicles, focusing on environmental protection and labor rights.
The bill also proposes a plan for labor adaptation and productive reconversion, prioritizing the needs of those traditionally employed as carriage drivers. This approach is intended to safeguard their employment rights during the transition.