jueves, 22 de enero de 2015

A Trashy Public Bikes Contract?

Cyclists on Bogotá's Sunday Ciclovia.
This Monday, Bogotá postponed bidding for its long-planned public bicycles program - for the third time. It's not difficult seeing why. 

Only two 'temporary unions' bid to manage the system, supposed to start out with almost 1,500 bikes. The first 'union' consists of the Jiangsu Home Technology Co Ltda. y Cartagüeña de Aseo Total ESP. A Google search found no trace of the home tech company, which presumably is based in the Chinese coastal province. 

Used, disfunctional garbage trucks imported by
one of the bidders for Bogotá's public bkes program.
In contrast, Cartagüeña de Aseo Total's malfunctioning website states that it was founded in 1993 to collaborate effectively in the solution to the problem which the capital's inhabitants were suffering due to non-opportune collection of garbage, which was causing epidemics and environmental contamination.' That apparently was in 1994. As anybody can observe, Bogotá's trash troubles haven't changed.

According to the website Laotracara.com, Cartagueña de Aseo is owned by Óscar Salazar Franco, the same man who sold Bogotá 60 used garbage trucks imported from the U.S., only 13 of which were usable. Also according to Laotracarain 2004 Salazar Franco was involved in a corruption scandal in the city on Neiva, in which he was sentenced to 54 months in prison for allegedly bribing officials to award his company a garbage collection contract.

The other 'temporary union' consists of Transporte Masivo en mi Bici SAS, Gestión y Consultoría Integral SAS, Inversiones y representaciones Vásquez and PBSC Urban Solutions America Inc.My Google searches did not produce any record of any of those companies having done anything. However, Laotracara that Urban Solutions is associated with companies which operate public bike programs in the United States, Canada and Britain.

A bicyclist on Carrera Septima, squeezed by buses.
One would think that the Urban Solutions group would be the clear favorite. However, Laotracara reports that Salazar Franco's bidding group offered the city a much larger - and apparently unrealistic - percentage of their projected revenues. 

It seems to me that there's a fundamental problem here. Mayor Petro, an ex-guerrilla leader with little love for capitalism, seems particularly challenged when contracting out city projects. Why haven't more respected companies with real experience running public bike programs expressed interest in running Bogotá's system? (Read Laotracara's article for details of the economic challenges.)

Of course, there are many reasons to question the success of a public bikes program here, including crime, air pollution, rain and vehicular chaos, which will frighten away many potential users. But if it works in cities like Santiago, Mexico City and Medellin, then why not here?

Bogotá leaders have for years talked about creating a public bikes program. But the idea has stayed in park, while other regional cities, including Santiago, Chile; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Mexico City; and even Medellin have created them. Around the year 2000, Bogotá was seen as a leader in urban cycling in the developing world, but has since fallen behind. A successful public bikes program would be a big boost for the city's cycling and its quality of life generally. But this contracting process appears to be steering toward disaster.

If that happens, it'll be a big black eye for Bogotá and cycling here in general.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

domingo, 18 de enero de 2015

The Parking Paradox

Here's a dramatic illustration of the huge difference in space occupied by parked bicycles and a single parked car - and not even a big car (parked illegally on a sidewalk).

It's perverse and destructive, then, that society invests so much in subsidizing car parking - but often doesn't let bikes park at all. A case in point were the recent stories in El Tiempo reporting that many apartment buildings don't allow residents to park their bicycles in their parking garages. Cars, including old ones, apparently give a building status, whereas a bicycle by definition hurts a building's image.

The building owners would do better by encouraging residents to trade their cars for bicycles, thus saving space, cleaning the air and improving residents' health. The same is true for all the businesses which scramble to offer free parking for drivers but shun cyclists.

Have those businesses thot about the huge costs of building and maintaining those parking garages? Has the city government reflected about how much better and more efficiently the city would function if it shifted its huge subsidies and other incentives for cars instead to more sustainable transit, like bicycles.

Blog by Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

domingo, 14 de diciembre de 2014

Bogotá's La Ciclovía Celebrates its Four Decades

Cyclists, a skater and a dog-walker on La Ciclovia.
La Ciclovía is celebrating its 40th anniversary these days: Four decades, during which it has become a Bogotá institution, given the city international fame and spread to cities across the Americas and beyond.

According to today's El Tiempo, La Ciclovia started with a  few kilometers of closed streets around carreras Septima and Trece. I've heard other origin accounts, and the truth may never be known at all or may be a combination of several stories.

Today, Bogotá's Ciclovia extends over 121 kilometers and attracts some 1.4 million participants every Sunday on bikes, feet and skates. It's often called 'the wordl's longest beach.'

La Ciclovia is a great institution. It's not only fun, but healthful, and it's just great watching all those people enjoying something healthful - a rarity for the human species.

But La Ciclovia's success and obvious benefits have prevented it from gaining enemies. In 1976 and '82 La Ciclovia's existence was formalized by decrees. Yet, during the '90s it shrunk to only 21 kms, and nearly disappeared completely, according to El Tiempo. Several years ago, a congressman who didn't like being inconvenienced while driving his car introduced a bill shifting La Ciclovia's hours from the current 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. to 5 a.m. to noon. Cyclists, common citizens and public officials past and present spoke against the idea, which died for lack of support.

Today, there are Ciclovia-like events in Medellin; Caracas, Venezuela; Santiago, Chile; Quito, Ecuador; Mexico City, and in several cities in the United States and even India. But few other cities carry out the event on such a grand scale and so frequently as Bogotá does.

Now, if only the great turnout on La Ciclovía would translate into massive bicycle use the other days of the week.
La Recrovia, which takes place in several parks and plazas during La Ciclovia. 
Ciclovia patrolers with signs commemorating 40-year anniversary.
Pull me along, little doggies.
Cycling in the rain, a common occurrence in Bogotá.

Orlando never seems to miss a Ciclovia with his placards denouncing the United States and celebrating communist Cuba.
A bicycle built for one serves for two.
By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

jueves, 11 de diciembre de 2014

A REAL Nocturnal Ciclovía

Three's not a crowd. Three members of one family on two wheels in La Candelaria.
Usually, Bogotá's annual Ciclovía Nocturna, or Nocturnal Ciclovía, is anything but, at least in the city centre, as Ave. Septima gets so packed with pedestrians that one can hardly walk a bike, much less ride one. 

But this year, they routed La Ciclovía along Carrera 6 in La Candelaria, making pedaling possible. 

A night-time training ride on La Ciclovia.
Not quite a 'cycle way' here along Carrera Septima.
Oops...No where to go.

Blog by Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

martes, 9 de diciembre de 2014

Riding Tall in Bogotá

Udaya, right, with his tall bike on La Plaza del Periodista, in La Candelaria. 
Pedaling the tall bike. 
When it comes to cycling, Udaya Raja and his buddies think big - really big. So big, in fact, that they build some of the tallest bikes in the world.

Udaya is in Bogotá this week on his hand-made bike, whose seat rises 5 1/2 feet high, to tour across parts of Colombia, observing how the people react.

"People are ecstatic, confused and surprised, especially motorists," Udaya said of common reactions. "They're just generally happy that someone's made something so interesting."

Tania, a guide with Bogotá Bike Tours, pedals the tall bike. 
A difficult dismount. 
Udaya, 32, built the bike himself back in Los Angeles, California under the guidance of his friend Adrian Machado, out of a steel Trek bicycle frame. It took a month of work and cost close to $700.00, altho that was in part because of some special parts, such as a classic leather Brooks seat. The bike weighs about 40 pounds, and when touring Udaya carries another 70 pounds of baggage.

Back home, Udaya hangs out with a group of 'freak' bike users, some of whose cycles dwarf his own. His friend Richie Trimble's bike's seat sits almost 20 feet high, making it perhaps the Earth's tallest bicycle. See it here.

Udaya came to Colombia, despite its sketchy reputation, because he'd already traveled thru Central America down to Panama. His may be the most exotic tall bike tour, at least for a Southern Californian. He bought a one-way ticket to Bogotá, so his stay is open-ended.

"I'm gonna take it day by day, until I run out of zest for traveling," he says.

Udaya's friend Bobby Gadda rode his own tall bike from Vancouver, Canada, to Los Angeles, and talks about the wonders of tall bike touring here.

Udaya, who back home worked as a cameraman and then for the Hulu movie streaming company, cycled in Bogotá's Ciclovia this Sunday. In fact, his friend Gadda brought Ciclovia to Los Angeles, where it's called CicLAvia and happens a few Sundays each year.

In the Colombian countryside Udaya expects to ride six to seven hours per day, covering about 50 kilometers.

"This thing is geared really low," he says. "But sometimes I have to get off and push it, and then it's gonna be really slow."

That could happen a lot with Colombia's big climbs and high altitudes.

On the other hand, Udaya doesn't plan to push his luck.

"If things really get too unsafe, I'll just put the bike on a truck and start again where it is safe," he says. "People see me on this bike and think I'm out to do something crazy, but really I'm not."

Yours truly on the tall bike, accompanied by Jesus, a local character. Riding the tall bike is easier than it looks - once you get started.

Blog by Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

sábado, 15 de noviembre de 2014

The Bici-Expo

The 'Pazcicleta.'
A year ago Cesár Salamanga had a dream: He saw a white bicycle crossing a bridge, while a godlike voice told him: 'You are going to make a peace bike.'

The prediction came true, and Salamanga founded Pazicleta, which, with the help of corporate sponsors, is distributing bicycles in poor, violence-wracked Colombian provinces to enable children to get to school, making them less likely to join outlaw organizations such as guerrillas and narcotraffickers.
The peace bikes' rear wheels are red,
meaning that they leave behind violence.

Salamanga displayed his 'peace bicycles' today during Bogota's annual Expo-Bici, part of Bicycle Week, held in the Gran Estación shopping mall. Salamanga's initiative was one of the most idealistic and least commercial of the expo's offerings, which also included high-tech bikes, folding bikes and wooden bikes, as well as lots of accessories.

Near Salamanga's stand was Bicisi, which aims to produce custom-made yet affordable bikes, "so that nobody has an excuse not to buy one," explained Juan Camilo, one of the founders of the three-month-old company.

Juan Camilo with a Bicisi bike. 
Don't drink this junk, no matter
how pretty the salesgirls.
Much of the expo, which wrapped up with a group ride to Bogotá's velodrome, was unabashedly materialistic. I even saw a Pepsi photo booth, with curvaceous young women. Why let such destructive products into what's supposed to be a health-promoting event?

Bogotá bicycling jerseys.
The city published a bicycle book, altho I didn't wait around to get a copy.
Ciclobleas. Obleas, a sweet cracker treat, by bike.
A four-wheeled vehicle lent by the city.
Bike bag on a wooden bike by Gaia.
Rice with milk and bananas, by bike.
The big screen displays the downside of Bogotá bicycling: smog-belching vehicles.
During the ride to downtown, riding behind a bus which belches smog. 
This cyclist, sadly, feels the need to wear a pollution mask. 
Bikes beside the Gran Estacion's fountain pool.
Riding down 26th St. How many bikes can fit in the space of a single car?
Gimme five!
A smile and a colorful bike.

The event was held at the Gran Estación shopping mall.
Low-rider bikes.

A mature cyclist.
How many cyclists can fin into the space occupied by a single car?
A tiny bike.
Blog by Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours.