martes, 29 de junio de 2010

Steal my Bike!

The other day at Bogota Bike Tours we negligently left a bike outside, leaning against the wall. Predictably, someone came by and grabbed it and took off.

I rode around on my bike searching for the guy, but no luck. Where might a bike thief head? I rode down Jimenez Ave., which is one of Bogotá's 'bike shop rows.' Many stores there sell fancy new bikes - and a few sell nice used bikes at unreasonably low prices. Everybody knows that most of these bikes are stolen. (When I had first moved to Bogotá, I innocently went to one of these shops and bought a cheap bike. But when I took the bike to a nearby workshop to have it tuned up, the folks there informed me that it was most likely stolen. So I looked at the owner's card they'd given me and discoverd that the name on it was a (probably nonexistent) shop in Medellin. I took the bike back, and, by threatening them with troubles with the cops, got my money back. Then I bought a new bike, which got stolen soon after.)

So, I headed down to the stolen bike strip, where, lo and behold, one of the shopowners was standing in his doorway holding my bike, which he'd just purchased.

"This is my bike," I said, putting my hand on the handlebar.

"Well, I just bought it." He wasn't sympathetic.

"It was just stolen from me," I said, angry.

"If you want it, then pay me what I paid for it. 50,000 pesos (about $27.00)."

"You give it back to me," I insisted, "or you'll have trouble with the police. You shouldn't buy things which are stolen."

"Just take it," he relented with disgust.

A funny story, but also a pathetic one.  I read that in San Francisco, California, the police plan to do a sting operation, which will involve placing tracking devices in bikes to be used as lures. When those bikes get stolen, the cops will track them to find out who's fencing the stolen bikes.

Here in Bogotá we don't need a sting op with expensive tracking devices. I and lots of other people know exactly who is dealing in stolen bikes. Why don't the cops do anything?

lunes, 14 de junio de 2010

The State of Bogotá's Ciclorutas

Bogotá has what is called the largest network of bicycle routes on the continent. But it's no secret that many of them are in lousy shape, as El Tiempo newspaper reports.

But, at least Bogotá does have a network of bike ways, even though a good number of them are barely usable, due to disrepair or because they're blocked by pedestrians and delivery vehicles.

Once again, more than repair potholes, Bogotá needs to make fundamental changes, such as taking away street space from cars and giving it to bikes. And reducing pollution and traffic chaos. And teaching motorists to respect other, non-motorized vehicles.

This blog written by Mike Ceaser, of Bogota Bike Tours

sábado, 12 de junio de 2010

License to Drive = License to Kill?

Ten years ago, Fabián Rolando Méndez ran over and killed a cyclist.

On April 10 of this year, driving his truck drunk, Mendéz crashed into a woman and three girls, injuring all of them, two of the girls severely.

Today, after two months in prison, Méndez, of the city of Bucaramanga, is back on the street. The lawyer representing the victims said: "Mr. Mendez didn't want to injure, or much less kill, these girls. It was an accident."

And Mendéz did apologize - so, we should feel sorry for him. After all, how many drivers have the bad luck to have four pedestrians and a cyclist get in their way in only a dead - especially when they are driving drunk, and so have limited control. The pedestrians should have known better. 

Sarcasm aside, a judge reduced Mendez's charges, so that he's now out of jail, even though at least two of his maimed victims are still in the hospital, having reconstructive surgery.

Ask yourself: If Mr. Mendez had been using a chainsaw, a gun, a hammer or a knife and gotten drunk and injured four people, after having killed one person the same way, would they have called it an accident? 

What about if Mendez had been a taxi driver or construction worker, instead of a member of a prominent family, and ex-director of the city's Sports and Recreation Institute?

What if Mendéz's victim had been driving an expensive truck himself?

But, when the weapon is a car or truck and the person wielding it is influential and the victims simple pedestrians or cyclists, then killing or maiming are evidently forgiveable mistakes in Colombia.

Méndez's crime moved local residents to march through Bucaramanga demanding justice for the injured woman and girls.  There's even a Facebook group demanding that Mendéz pay for what he did.

This blog written by Mike Ceaser, of Bogota Bike Tours 

martes, 1 de junio de 2010

Pedestrianization, Parking

The Free ADN newspaper, of all places, has published several articles relevant to cycling.

Eleventh St., from Carrera 2 down past the Plaza Bolivar, to Carrera 10 (in La Candelaria), is to become a 'pedestrian corridor,' with restricted vehicular access.

Pedestrianization of the center will do lots of good for Bogotá. Taxis and other motor vehicles often race thru here, ignoring stop signs. With all the kids around as well as persons under the influence in this neighborhood, it's amazing that more pedestrians don't get hit. The great majority of people in La Candelaria are students and tourists, who move mostly by foot. And most neighborhood residents don't own cars. So, it's not right (is it anywhere?) that the car-using minority tyrannizes the self-propelled majority.

But I have one concern: on some other pedestrianized streets in the center, bicyclists are required to get off and walk - even tho I've never seen or heard of a bicycle-pedestrian accident in this area. What are the plans for 11th St.?

'No hay dinero para el deporte' - No money for sports! 

Until recently, a sports tax was included on phone bills to pay for things such as physical activities for kids and seniors, as well as the Sunday/holiday Ciclovia. A judge recently suspended the tax, however. ADN reports that the city expected this tax to generate about $150 million in 2013, which will be lost unless the judge's decision gets reversed.

The Ciclovia, for one, has already been cut back. Will this mean they'll hack off more sections?

(On the other hand, with ETB providing such lousy and expensive phone service, it's not surprising that nobody wants to pay for it.)

Bike Parking lots Inaugurated 

They've opened a bike parking facility in the Recaurte Transmillenio Station for 162 bikes. That's a good thing. There are also already much larger bike parking lots at some major TM stations, with a total capacity for 1,640 bikes.

The lots have been criticized, however, as under-used. On average, they receive only about 480 bikes per day.

In my opinion, the city committed a fundamental, conceptual mistake by building a few huge and expensive bike parking lots, instead of doing something simple and cheap like placing bike racks at every station. As a result, most TM stations have no bike parking, while these few huge parking lots sit mostly empty. But monumental structures appear oh so much more impressive.

Meanwhile, unfortunately and absurdly, four 'Meeting points,' at TM stations, built years ago, and with capacity for hundreds of bikes, have never opened. That's because the city wants someone to take them on as a concession and run them for a profit - economically unrealistic right now.

Bike parking should be a free, subsidized service, since cycling contributes so much to cities' and individuals' health.

While writing this, I've found two facebook forums on bike parking in Bogota:

Free parking for bicycles in Bogotá.

For the right to park bicycles in Bogotá.

This blog written by Mike Ceaser, of Bogota Bike Tours and Rentals