lunes, 22 de mayo de 2017

A Star is Born

Fernando Gaviria winning a stage in the 2015 Tour de San Luis.
(Photo: Cycling News)
This was supposed to be Nairo Quintana's Giro de Italia - and it still may be. Winner of the 2014 Giro, Quintana and last year's winner Vicenzo Nibali were this year's favorites. And Quintana may yet win, but he needs to make up close to three minutes against race leader Dutchman Tom Dumoulin, an expert at time trials. With four mountain stages remaining, Quintana might do it. On Sunday, he shaved nine seconds off of Dumoulin's lead. (On Tuesday, he made up most of that time against an ill Dumoulin. However, the last stage is a time trial.)

But the Colombian who has already earned himself a memorable place in this year's Giro is sprinter Fernando Gaviria, a 22-year-old from Antioquia riding with Quick-Step who has already raced to victory in four stages of this year's Giro, a record for a Colombian.

Along the way, he also became a web sensation by riding a wheelie during the Giro's stage 15.

Gaviria first won prominence in the 2015 Tour de San Luis, and went on for more wins in the Tour of Britain, Tour la Provence and the Track Cycling World Championships, among other competitions.

But for Gaviria, like Quintana, the best is likely yet to come.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

viernes, 19 de mayo de 2017


Come Ride With Us. (Why do they put these things in English?)
Outside the Espacio Odeon gallery on Jimenez Ave.
ARTBO, Bogotá's annual art festival, has added bicycle transport this year - and they're actually doing it right, albeit on a small scale. (See a few of ARTBO's works here.)

Pedaling up Jimenez Ave.
The festival, using city-owned bikes and employees of the Spinning Center gyms, has set up six lending sites, each initially with eight bikes. The idea is for art fans to pedal from one exhibition to the next, altho once you pedal out of sight they have no way to know whether you're off to more art or to your lunch date. The service is free, but you must show I.D. and have signed up on ARTBO's website.

The blue bicycles were
borrowed from the city.
By allowing riders to pick up bikes at one spot and drop them off at another, this private initiative already puts itself ahead of the city's very limited, but still missed, bicicorredor lending program. The city required you to drop the bike off near where you'd picked it up, which wasn't very practical for transportation, and the program was ended last year.

The city's much-promised full-scale bike lending program has not gotten off of the drawing board.

Preparing a bike for lending. 
On the Jimenez Ave. lending site outside the Espacio Odeon gallery this afternoon, the employees said they'd lent about six bikes. Not so many, but that's still six more rides than without the program. (On Saturday they appeared to be much busier.)

However, absurdly, you also need to have signed up on the website in order to park a bike. One of the employees agreed this was counterproductive. "A lot of people have asked to park their bikes, and would have visited the gallery," he said.

So much for making rules for the sake of making rules.
Free bicycle parking, too.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

viernes, 5 de mayo de 2017

Tough Times for the Cycling Federation

Nairo Quintana, champion and cycling federation critic.
Lack of support for cyclists, poor preparation for competitions, measly prize money and opaque finances.

The 89-year-old Colombian Federation of Cycling is passing through troubled times, if you believe its critics.

The most prominent of those critics is Nairo Quintana, winner of the tours of Spain and Italy.

The league “doesn't send all the athletes (that it could to races), doesn't provide financial support, doesn't publicize its accounts and doesn't provide support," to riders, Quintana said.

Recently, in fact, the Vuelta a Tolima was canceled because the federation had not
BMX champion Mariana Pajón defends the federation.
obtained the necessary permits. And, in another race, riders had to pedal through mud and evade potholes. 

In additional, critics call the federation's anti-doping efforts weak. Two months ago, Coldeportes' anti-doping laboratory was shut down because it did not meet international standards.

Many also called the planned prize money for women in the canceled Tolima tour inadequate: Only 70,000 pesos, or about US $25, for stage winners and 600,000 pesos, or $210, for the tour winner.

Paradoxically, the federation charges cyclists 680,000 pesos for racing licenses, reportedly one of the highest rates in the world, and wealthy corporate sponsors.

Quintana had also opposed the election in January of Jorge Ovidio González, a veteran cycling official, as federation president. Some alleged that González bought votes with favors and are attempting to annul the election.

But Colombian BMX champion Mariana Pajón, winner of two Olympic gold medals, criticized Quintana in an audio message which she sent to her father but was leaked to the media.

"It makes me sad, because a person such as Nairo should be careful of what he says," she said, and suggested that Quintana was bitter because his candidate for federation president was defeated. Pajón's father is a federation official.

Pajón acknowledged that there were problems, but said that the federation could not support all racers.

Federation president González also said that Quintana was misinformed about subjects such as racers' health insurance.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

viernes, 28 de abril de 2017

The Importance of Pruning

Can you see the lane below those branches?
 The bike lane on Calle 39 created last year was a useful addition for Bogotá cyclists, asi it connects the 11th-Street bike lane (and the Parque Nacional) to Teusaquillo and the Parkway. (That it is one of the few bike lanes which take space from cars instead of pedestrians is another positive.)

Since then, however, the lane has been neglected. On its first segment, to Caracas Avenue, the median strip's trees have extended their branches across the lane, and into cyclilsts' faces - a situation which would never be tolerated in a lane for cars.

This bicyclist didn't even use the new lane.
Now it's safe to return to the lane.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

jueves, 27 de abril de 2017

The Milas' Mobile Bicycle Workshop

The Mila brothers don't limit themselves to two-wheeled vehicles.
Still hard at work after dark.
Last year, Jason Mila, 29, was one more young Colombian without employment. A resident of the poor Dorado hillside neighborhood, his poor public school school education didn't qualify him for much.

But Jason owned a street vendors' cart, and knew how to repair bikes. Today, he and his brothers, all of whom have experience with bicycles, including working for Bogotá Bike Tours, are operating a successful mobile bike repair cart along the pedestrianized stretch of Carrera Septima.
Bicycle rush hour on Carrera Septima.

Theirs is a long workday - often stretching from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. to catch the rush hours - but it makes them part of Bogotá's expanding bicycle economy, which has seen a proliferation of such temporary, mobile workshops in recent years. And they also do house calls. (Call them at 321-995-9261.)

Repair stands such as Jason's occupy a legal grey area. Despite the valuable service they perform for clean transit, and the employment they generate for low-skilled people, the stands generally lack business licenses and occupy public space. Fortunately, the police don't appear to be cracking down on them. Jason believes he knows why - his clients include bicycle-riding cops.

Not only tools in this cart.
A bike repair stand beside the Universidad Pedagogica...

...and another in the Centro Internacional.
By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

viernes, 28 de octubre de 2016

A Bicycle Promotion Law

Cyclists in a bike lane in north Bogotá.
A law approved by Parliament this week promotes bicycle use - but only half-heartedly.

The instructs mass transit agencies to provide bike parking, but doesn't appear to specify exactly how much parking, or what sort of conditions. Bogotá's TransMilenio has some impressive, massive bike parking lots on end-line stations - but the great majority of stations have no bike parking at all. Will this actually be enforced, or will transit agencies just plop a cheap bike rack in a back lot somewhere?

The law also requires government agencies - but not private companies - to provide bike parking equal to 10% of their car parking. That's not a lot, and it only covers public agencies. So, it's a step forward, but only a small one.

The law includes some interesting incentives. Those who travel to the public bus systems by bike for
Biking down Carrera Septima.
30 days get one free bus ride. That's not much, but it's something. And public workers who commute by bike are to get a paid afternoon off for every 30 bike commutes.

Transit systems are also supposed to try to make arrangements for riders to travel with their bicycles, as well as equip vehicles with bike racks. Will transit systems cooperate with this? How many cyclists would risk mounting their bike on the back of a bus, within reach of thieves at every stoplight?
A parked vehicle blocks a bike lane.
Enforcing traffic laws might help.

The new bike law is a step forward, at least as a public signal that the nation does support two-wheeled transit. But it also falls way short - primarily in its failure to include private companies in its policies. I suppose that the parliamentarians didn't want to make enemies.

The law also has a huge failure. Apparently (I've read only news reports about it), the law doesn't bother to define a bicycle as a 'motorless vehicle powered by its rider.' Doing that would finally ban those polluting, dangerous motorized bikes from bike lanes, sidewalks and La Ciclovia.

Still a bicycle? A noisy, polluting bike-with-a-motor.

lunes, 12 de septiembre de 2016

Steps Forward, Steps Back

In the year or so since my camera broke and I got too busy to blog, Bogotá has moved forward on some bike issues - and backward on others.

They've added bike lanes - some of which are actually useful and well-used.

A new bike lane in Teusaquillo actually demands respect for cyclists.

But here's what traffic does to the lane. (Spot the cyclist trying to cross Avenida Caracas.)

And which transit genius decided that nobody would ever want to enter the lane from the west?

And here's a lane along Calle 11 in north Bogotá. It's satisfying pedaling past cars stuck in traffic.

But I just wish they'd keep the motorized bikes out of the lanes...

More to the south, the lane still runs on the sidewalk. Here's a rare sight: a bicycle traffic jam.
And, finally after years satisfying what's a personal issue of mine, after years of delay and mulitple complaints from cyclists, the city's transit geniuses finally decided that cyclistas had the right to safely cross this street behind the Central Cemetery. Until they retimed the lights, giving cyclists and pedestrians time to cross. They even added a signal for cyclists.

Green means go for cyclists.
But that doesn't stop cars from parking in the bike lanes.
Previously, as soon as the cars driving north across the bike lane stopped, other cars immediately starting turning left across the lane. That left no time between car traffic for bikes or pedestrians to cross, generating constant conflicts between cyclists and motorists. 

But the news isn't so great for public bikes. 

A few months ago, then-new Mayor Enrique Peñalosa - who campaigned for mayor on a bike - terminate the IDRD's bike lending programs on Carrera 7, in the Universidad Nacional and Parque El Virrey. Apparently, the program cost too much. 

The program was, irrationaly, limited. You coul not pick up a bike in one part of the city and drop it off in another, for example. But it was Bogotá's only public bikes lending program. 

That was then: Public bikes on Carrera Septima.
Where are they now? Rusting away somewhere.
And the city's much-vaunted general public bikes program, which Mayor Petro issued the contract for last year?

Not a single bike has hit a street. That's not surprising, since neither the Colombian nor the Chinese companies which one the contract had experience with bicycles, the Colombian partner had been involved in two corruption scandals, and the contract's business model was totally unrealistic. (The contractee was supposed to pay the city, whereas just about everywhere else, public bikes lending schemes lose money and are either subsidized by their cities or receive lots of advertising income.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogota Bike Tours