miércoles, 6 de octubre de 2010

A Funeral for Bicycle Week

Requiem for a Parking Lot That Never Was
(Photos by Carlos Felipe Pardo)
(Photos by Carlos Felipe Pardo)
Bogotá's Bicycle Week (schedule here) kicked off on Monday with a downer - a funeral. But maybe the episode should be better called a stillbirth.

In 2006, if my memory serves, Bogotá built four 'Meeting points' at Transmilenio stations, each including public bathrooms, vendors' kiosks and a bicycle parking facility. The reason for the name seems lost to history, but the goal was admirable: to generate more activity around the stations, provide badly-needed public bathrooms and encourage clean transport to TM stations. The bicycle parking buildings are large and sophisticated, despite some basic engineering faults (like constructing the walls out of wooden slats, which let rain in, and installing a sophisticated and expensive elevator, that is sure to fail after a few months).

Incomprehensibly, however, four years later the expensive parking facility by Las Aguas station, near La Candelaria, has never opened. That tragic fact was commemorated with the funeral held by members of Bogotá's Mesa de la Bicicleta, a city advisory group on cycling issues.

Each time I've spoken to the parking lot's security guards they've assured me that the facility would open in six months or at the beginning of the next year, which has never happened. The latest explanation is that they're waiting for expansion work to finish on the adjoining TM line. That makes no sense, since the TM line has never halted operations.

The most consistent explanation I've heard about why the parking facility's never opened is that the city wants someone to agree to operate it - something only Bill Gates might do, since it's unlikely to make a profit. That demonstrates a
fundamental misconception about bicycle parking facilities. Naturally, they don't generate profits themselves. But they benefit the city by encouraging cycling and therefore reducing the much greater costs in noise, pollution, congestion, infrastructure demands and other huge costs and quality of life impacts created by cars.

In addition to the funeral, this year's Bicycle Week also includes conferences, group rides and other events.

Bicycle Week 2010 comes, unfortunately, at a difficult time for cycling in Bogotá, when City Hall appears to give cycling little importance, the city's Ciclorutas are falling apart and congestion, pollution and traffic chaos make biking this city a real challenge.

This blog written by Mike Ceaser of Bogota Bike Tours

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