jueves, 30 de septiembre de 2010

What a Congestion Charge Could Do for Cycling

And end in sight for Bogotá's traffic jams?
Luis Willumsen
The other day, Luis Willumsen, a transit consultant from London proposed a radical cure for Bogotá's transit mess. While his proposal makes no mention of bicycles, it would likely do wonders for cycling in the city: that Bogotá create a London-style congestion fee for motorized vehicles entering the city center.

Such a fee would do wonders for traffic and social equity, and it'd inevitably give a big boost to cycling, for several reasons. This is true in part because part of the income from such a fee would likely go to pro-cycling projects such as bicycle lanes. More importantly, less congestion would do wonders for the quality of cycling in this city, where riders now have to fight their way through ranks of stalled cars and buses, whose frustrated drivers lean on their horns and block cyclists' paths just out of general jerkiness. A congestion fee would ease up traffic and tension and reduce both the number of vehicles and pollution. Finally, by raising the cost of driving, it would push some commuters off of four wheels and onto two.

It's important to note that a congestion charge only monetizes - and probably reduces - costs which motorists are paying already, in time lost waiting in traffic jams and in fuel burnt during hours of idling - not to mention the medical costs of all of that stress. 

Worried Samuel better do something.
Imposing a congestion fee is tough politically - but several factors make it more realistic in Bogotá's case: Here, only a minority of residents own private cars, and they're not supporters of Mayor Samuel Moreno anyway; the city, and Moreno in particular, have shown a willingness to take measures motorists dislike, particularly the city's ineffective and perhaps even counterproductive 'Pico y Placa' law. Finally, Moreno is so unpopular that he's got nothing to lose by trying an unpopular but potentially revolutionary transit policy.

This blog by Mike Ceaser of Bogota Bike Tours

jueves, 23 de septiembre de 2010

Those Daring Young Men on their Flying Bikes!

Recently along Bogotá's Ciclovia they've been setting up these big ramps for these daring young men flip and fly through the air.
Will he come down in one piece?

This kid seemed to be the best. He skidded out once, but got back on the bike and kept going.

martes, 21 de septiembre de 2010

Bikes Off of Bogotá's Streets?

Bad guys! Cyclists not using a Cicloruta.
Are Bogotá's famed Ciclorutas - one of the prides of the cycling community - being turned into a liability for Bogotá's cyclists?

That's what it sounds like from this Sunday's opinion column in El Tiempo by Carlos Felipe Pardo. Pardo says that several cyclists have reported being stopped, ticketed and fined for riding on streets that lacked ciclorutas but were within five kilometers of a Cicloruta.

Carlos Felipe Pardo is a clearheaded supporter of cycling and sustainable transport who's worked for several international transit agencies. That's why one's got to take his concerns seriously, as bizarre as this one sounds.

There's a Cicloruta here - can you see it?
If this has really become city policy (based on no law that I know of), then it's a great formula for eliminating cycling in the city. As impressive as Bogotá's Ciclorutas are compared to those in the rest of Latin America, they lead only to a limited number of places. And many are in deplorable shape, damaged by potholes and obstructed by pedestrians and delivery vehicles. Anyone who expects cyclists to ride five kilometers out of their way to find a cicloruta and then five more kilometers back to find their original destination, is living in a different reality. It suggests a terrible double standard - when car drivers don't hesitate to lean on their horns because of two-second delays and routinely park on sidewalks. 
Will your wheels survive this Cicloruta?
 Such a policy - if real - also seems based on a belief that cyclists are delicate creatures unfit to venture near motorized vehicles. And that cyclists are neither important themselves nor headed anywhere important enough to be in a hurry to get there.

Certainly bicyclists, balanced on two wheels without a steel shell surrounding them, are much more vulnerable than car drivers. But all over the world cyclists can and do share roads and highways with motor vehicles. And it's the motor vehicle drivers' responsibility to respect cyclists, not cyclists' responsibility to clear out of their way - particularly in a city in which drivers routinely invade pedestrians' space in crosswalks and on sidewalks.

Another message is that bicycles aren't practical transportation vehicles, but should be restricted to Ciclorutas, sidewalks and public parks - even tho at least one important Bogotá public park prohibits bicycles, for reasons which completely escape me (and probably the park authorities as well).

Restricting cyclists' rights is no way to improve traffic safety. And, as Pardo predicts, many frustrated cyclists will likely buy motorcycles - which are notoriously dangerous as well as polluting.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours 

domingo, 19 de septiembre de 2010

Is This Really How to Get People onto Bikes?

The other day, this group of city employees pedaled up Seventh Ave. to the National Park, about 40 blocks. On a typically smoggy morning, they rode up Seventh St. amidst belching buses and cars which - at least normally - would be trying to run them off the road.

This was the municipal government's campaign, called Bicivilizate, to promote bicycle commuting amongst its employees. On the one hand, it's a small miracle that the Samuel Moreno administration is paying any attention at all to bicycles. Unfortunately, however, this attention isn't very productive. I'd like to know how many of last Friday's pedalers dusted off that old bike the next day, and how many told themselves: 'Thank God that death-defying experience was only a one-time thing!'

As well-intended as it may have been, one-time stunts like this won't bring the sorts of mindset changes necessary to make bicycle commuting grow. What I'd really like to know is whether these employees' offices provide secure bicycle parking, whether they have showers and lockers available and whether they provide any subsidies comparable to the free parking they likely offer car drivers.

Most of all, I'd like to know whether a person who does ride to work is met with respect or teasing and condescension.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, it's worth repeating that what Bogotá needs is real control of pollution, respect from car drivers for cyclists and pedestrians and lots of traffic calming measures - not to mention that holy grail traffic rationalization: a congestion tax. This blog by Mike, of Bogota Bike Tours.

How'd you like to pedal behind this bus?

Bikes and Tinto

Bikes, coffee, tea, cigarettes and something more...
I passed this tiny bike repair shop in Bogotá's Palermo neighborhood. As the sign says, they repair bikes and also sell coffee, tea and other drinks. Inside, about four bikes hung from the right wall, in back stood a work bench and crowded against the left wall two tiny tables for sipping coffe and tea. The good-natured owner said he'd been in business for eight years and that things were going well. When I told him about Bogotá Bike Tours renting bikes for 15,000 pesos for four hours, he laughed hard and said that back in the 1970s he'd rented bikes for five centavos per hour. That seems too cheap even for way back then. Today, the smallest Colombian coin in circulation is 50 pesos.

(Ignore any possible conflict between cycling and smoking.)

This blog written by Mike Ceaser of Bogotá Bike Tours

domingo, 5 de septiembre de 2010

Bogotá's Ciclovia Goes Global!

Thirty five years ago a group of Bogotá bicyclists managed to persuade city authorities to shut down several blocks of streets for them to ride around on Sundays.

Seventh Ave. Ciclovia in Bogotá
Today, that Ciclovia stretches more than 120 kms and  every Sunday and most holidays attracts thousands of participants, who turn out on skates, bikes, wheelchairs and on foot. Many call it the world's longest street party. And ex-Mayor Enrique Peñalosa says it's the only time that bogotanos of different classes mix on a fairly equal basis.

Another impressive thing has been happening: In recent years, with greater international concern about the need for doing physical activity, as well as a growing realization that car culture is killing our cities and their residents, the Ciclovia concept has been spreading - first across Colombia, then the continent, and then the globe.

Quito, Ecuador's Ciclopaseo
As far as I've heard, no other Ciclovia equals the dimensions or the frequency of Bogotá's Ciclovia, which occupies some of the capital's most important avenues. Perhaps the most ambitious outside Colombia is Quito Ecuador's Ciclopaseo, which runs from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. every Sunday during the dry season and every other Sunday during the rainy season.

Some cities have staged one- or two-time Ciclovias, while numerous U.S. cities have established apparently regular events, often called 'Summer Streets' or 'Sunday Streets.' The concept has been embraced even in some redneck, not-hippy places such as Montana, North Carolina and Winnipeg, Canada.

In many of the cities, drivers have pressured to have the Ciclovias cut back - even though the Ciclovias occupy a small proportion of city streets, and generally only during the hours of least traffic.

Let a million Ciclovias roll!

Here's a list of websites about some international Ciclovias:

London, England:


    US Cities: 

Missoula, Montana http://www.sundaystreetsmissoula.org/

San Francisco, Ca.    http://sundaystreetssf.com/

Oakland, Ca.    http://oaklandnorth.net/2010/06/28/oaklavia—oakland’s-own-sunday-streets/

New York City: http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/summerstreets/html/home/home.shtml

Seattle, Wa   http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/summerstreets.htm

San Jose, Ca. 


Miami, Florida http://bikemiamiblog.wordpress.com/ 

Portland, Or.  http://www.portlandcarfreeday.org/?p=72

     Winnipeg, Canada 


This blog written by Mike Ceaser of Bogota Bike Tours