So, the other week, Bogotá's famous Ciclovía celebrated its 35th birthday the other day. This Bogotá institution began with a few cyclists riding a several-block-long circuit along Seventh Ave., and has expanded into a major source of pride and recreation for millions of Bogotanos, and has been imitated (but not equalled) in other city, with names such as Via Verde and Sunday (or Summer) Streets.
Unfortunately, recent mayors have not given Bogotá's Ciclovia the importance and priority that it deserves and needs to continue playing such an important role for the health and recreation of millions of Bogotanos.
Last year, without public consultation, the city government suspended La Ciclovia along one of its major avenues, 26th St., because of work for expansion of the city's Transmilenio express bus system. To many of us, it seems that La Ciclovia could have continued functioning on 26th St.
Now, many of us are worried that the same story will be repeated on 7th Ave., which is La Ciclovía's most popular, important and visible section. ÇWithout either Seventh Ave. or 26th St., La Ciclovia will be barely a shadow of its full self, millions of people will lose access to their recreation and hundreds of people who sell foods or services along the route will lose their incomes.
The other day, I met with officials of the District's Institute of Recreation and Sport (IDRD), to talk about this and other issues. unfortunately, I left feeling less confident than ever in La Ciclovia's future. Will the Ciclovia be given an alternative, parallel route during construction on Seventh Ave.? Well, the officials told me, they've asked for one, but the decision is not up to them. I saw no sign that they had taken any sort of real stand to defend this institution which benefits so many people in Bogota. Similarly, I haven't seen mobilization on the part of the hundreds of informal vendors who depend on the Seventh Ave. Ciclovia for an important part of their income. Unfortunately, this sort of resignation in the face of the 'inevitable' and the decisions of authorities seems to be characteristic of Colombian society.
Similarly, when I asked the officials about dealing with the growing problem of motor-powered bicycles producing noise and pollution on La Ciclovia, they basically shrugged their shoulders and said they had no legal way of excluding these machines. Are SUVs next?
Let's just hope that the Ciclovia survives to see more 'Happy Birthdays.'