jueves, 24 de septiembre de 2009

Public Bikes in Bogotá

The National University's Bogotá campus, the nation's largest university, has had public bikes on campus for about two years. The green one-speeds have only one brake - in the rear. But since the campus is flat, not much breaking power is needed. The photos shows a student who is collecting the public bikes to store over a weekend.
Unfortunately, the program began with more than 1,000 bikes but has only a few hundred left operating. Some have been stolen, others suffered abuse and damage.
Now, a city councilmember is proposing creating a public bicycles program like those in Paris and Barcelona for Bogotá. It'll be great if it works, but sadly I have my doubts.
This blog is written by Mike Ceaser, who runs Bogota Bike Tours www.bogotabiketours.com

Safety for cyclists

Nicole, the older girl, died recently while cycling on a Bogotá street. While many motorists are considerate toward cyclists and pedestrians, others are aggressive. City hall needs to do education that cyclists are important vehicles as well, and deserve respect. Unfortunately, many cyclists (including yours truly) also often don't take basic safety measures, such as wearing a helmet and, at night, a reflective vest - both of which are required by law. Also, I often see cyclists riding at night not only without lights or reflectors, but dressed in dark clothes! A good way to reduce one's life expectancy!

This blog is written by Mike Ceaser, who owns Bogotá Bike Tours and Rentals www.bogotabiketours.com 

It's a tiny thing in Bogotá's National Park/Parque Nacional, but it means a lot. Previously, drivers routinely parked their cars here, blocking the ramp which cyclists, wheelchair users, pedestrians and others needing to cross the street. Yours truly had complained repeatedly to the park staff, and recently this and other cones began appearing. The cones mean that non-car users also matter!

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.

sábado, 5 de septiembre de 2009

More folks seem to be cycling to and through Colombia - here's a Belgian and an American. Notice that neither rode a mountain bike!

Jean, from Belgium, cycled from Chile/Argentina to Bogotá - some 9,000 kilometers over seven months. He took it easy, he said, stopping to camp and visit whenever he felt like it. I met him in the Hostal Fatima, around the corner from Bogota Bike Tours' shop. He said the Carreterra Austral in southern Chile was particularly beautiful, with tiny towns along the way. 

He enjoyed Bolivia because of its remoteness. In Colombia, he said, motorists were generally more considerate, perhaps because they're more used to finding cyclists on the road. In Colombia he also found it easier to buy parts for his bike. 

Jean's bike is a real technological marvel to a guy like me, who grew up with center-pull brakes and three-speeds with coaster brakes. In fact, I still use lots of those things. In contrast, Jean's bike had hydraulic brakes, an electromagnetic generator inside the front hub which powered his lights and German-made gears inside the rear hub. (Jean said the Shimano hub-gears also worked well, but that the German ones gave him more range for touring.) Despite all this hi-tech, Jean didn't have problems with spare parts. The only time he needed something not available in South America - a part for the brakes - his parents very conveniently were able to bring the piece with them on an already-scheduled visit. Otherwise, he said, the company would have sent the parts UPS.

In general, Jean said he enjoyed riding in Colombia - except close to Bogota, where the roads became quite busy. He recounted one moving experience, when a Colombian man road with him for a stretch and told Jean that he cycled every day in memory of his son, who was killed in a traffic accident (altho not while cycling). The Colombian man gave Jean some money to have a beer in the next town. 

Jean met many other bicycle tourists during his ride, some of whom really impressed him with their accomplishments on two wheels. One couple were carrying packed trailers behind their bikes - and their 8-year-old baby daughter!

Another cyclist - this one from Atlanta, Georgia, standing in front of Bogota Bike Tours' shop - who also came by to have his pedals removed for shipping. We're getting better at remembering which direction to turn to loosen them. Seems like more and more people are bike touring Colombia.