martes, 8 de septiembre de 2009

Parking a bike in Bogotá, Colombia?

Spot the threat to public order?
Spot the threat to public safety in the photo! (Hint: it's got two wheels and doesn't pollute)
Bogotá, Colombia's great for bicycles, right? You can ride a bike on the world-famous Ciclovia, on Latin America's biggest network of bicycle paths - but where can you park it? At public buildings, transit stations, banks, hospitals you're not likely to find a bike rack and are likely to get driven off if you try to chain your two-wheeler to a signpost.
Case in point: today I tried to attend a municipal meeting on bike planning (I arrived very late, admittedly), held in a private university. I locked my bike to a street sign on the sidewalk, as people do everywhere in the world. Promptly, a security guard arrived and informed me that the university did not allow such outrages as bicycles parked on the sidewalk near it. I pointed out to him that the sidewalk did not belong to the university, but that didn't budge him.
'Why?' I asked. 'Who's my bike harming by being there?'
'Please remove the bicycle,' he repeated, unable or unwilling to add any reason, because there wasn't any.
Soon, a second guard arrived, this one with a big, black bomb-sniffing dog. And then three junior cops, all of whom repeated to me the same thing - but none with any reasoning behind the prohibition.
My bicycle's offense did change, however. Now it was breaking the law against attaching things to street signs. Or the law against occupying public space (even tho it didn't block the sidewalk at all).
After some discussion, I went to the auto parking lot across the street. Municipal law requires all parking lots to accept bicycles, but most, like this one, ignore the law. It seems that the law is enforced only when it's against bicycles.
I was informed that the university does have bike parking. But I didn't know that. And, locking a bike to a street sign, an accepted practice the world over, is cheap, convenient, fast and easy - why prohibit it for no reason?
I finally relented. On the way back to Bogotá Bike Tours' shop I passed several cars parked on sidewalks - but nobody appeared to mind.
It seems that in this city if you buy a loud, huge, polluting, machine the right to occupy the sidewalk is included.
No parking problem here. 
This blog is written by Mike Ceaser, who runs Bogotá Bike Tours.

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