jueves, 17 de febrero de 2011

Hit and Run on the 13th

Broken bike
Enrique was cycling along the Carrera 13 cicloruta this afternoon a bit after 5 p.m., assuming that on the cicloruta bicycles had some sort of priority - or at least some respect.

Enrique's scraped arm
That changed when a car pulling out across the sidewalk hit his rear wheel, causing him to run into a pole and fall off the bike. The bike's fork was bent backwards, the derailleurs twisted and the chainring bent. Enrique was scraped and bruised but otherwise alright.

By the time Enrique picked himself and looked around, the driver who'd hit him had left the scene - undoubtedly angry at the impudent cyclist who'd had the nerve to get in front of his vehicle. It's a wonder, incidentally, that the driver was able to leave the scene at all, amidst the avenue's rush hour traffic congestion.
The scene later on on La 13 - nothing moving but the bikes. 
By Mike Ceaser of Bogotá Bike Tours 

domingo, 13 de febrero de 2011

Bicycle Theft on La Ciclovía - Redux!

Why would a thief carry off a bike instead of riding it? Why would a bike thief wear a mask? But the photo's dramatic!

It's a real problem. Today, one of Bogotá Bike Tours' bikes got stolen, from a client. She had gotten off of the bike on Seventh Ave. and 64th St., during La Ciclovia, when some guys dressed in cycling clothing approached her and invited her on rides up a road outside of Bogotá. Suddenly, one of them pulled out a knife, another hopped on the bicycle, and that was it.

I'll point out that this wasn't just any old bike, but a shiny new aluminum frame bike. The best way to not have this happen to you is to ride an old, or old-looking bike.

It's happened many times before, to us and to others. Few items are easier to make off with than a bicycle, or easier to sell. I suspect that they'll repaint ours or send it to Medellin or elsewhere to fence. And, the best place to steal a bike is on La Ciclovia, where all you have to do is sit back and wait until a vulnerable-looking person passes by on a nice bike.

Obviously, in a city of eight million people, the police can't be everywhere. And, in any case, every time I visit a police station to place a denuncia - which I've done more than once - the cops complain that their hands are tied by Colombian law, and that using 'bait bikes' would mean illegal entrapment.

These thieves are not kids who spot an opportunity, but organized rings which prey regularly on cyclists. So, catching them would mean recovering lots of bikes and preventing many future thefts. 

Anti-theft advice consists mostly of locking your bike securely, with one or even two U-locks.

But this advice isn't worth much against Bogotá thieves, who aren't shy about taking the bike from its rider - whether by deceit, threat or physical strength.

On La Ciclovia: Your bike could be next!
In a previous incident, the thieves also worked in a team. One blocked the cyclist's path along La Ciclovía, forcing him to stop. Then his buddy pulled the rider off of the bike and hopped on himself. In a moment, they were gone. I've heard of other cases in which the thieves simply befriend the victim and then ask to try out their bike. You can image what happens next.

The one thing which can stop these thefts is public action. If the many people nearby would only respond by yelling at the thieves, grabbing the stolen bike's rear wheel, blocking the thief's path - any of many things which meant almost no risk to themselves - the thief might very well have gotten caught, and might even seek a different line of work.

My advice: Carry a lock, be aware of who's around you. And, most of all, don't be vain. Ride an older bike or make your new bike look older and worn! 

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

viernes, 4 de febrero de 2011

Bogotá's Car-Free Day

University of the Andes students pedaling home. But how many of these generally wealthy kids will leave the car at home and make bicycling a habit?
Car-Free Day 2011, on Thursday Feb. 3, brought out more cyclists, but not the crowds of pedalers I'd hoped for. More importantly - do Car-Free Days create any lasting changes?

Certainly, the streets were less congested and bicycling more bearable. Here are some cyclists passing our clean-air protest on Seventh Ave., enjoying more than the usual road space, and slightly cleaner-than-normal air. El Tiempo reported that the number of cyclists increased 46 percent on Car-Free Day.

A few of us from Bogotá Bike Tours protested the city's horrendous and clearly uncontrolled pollution. I felt a lot like Don Quijote charging windmills as we hung out our banners and talked about air pollution to pedestrians who mostly walked past uninterested, often smoking.

I reflected on how many bogotanos were likely complaining right then that their favorite TV show was canceled, that there are no grapes in the market, that the car is dirty, that the maid is late, that the ice cream is frozen too hard...and only four of us out of those nine million bogotanos were out protesting something which must sicken and kill thousands of people every year.

During our protest, a sampling of Bogotá's bicyclists passed by, including several fixie riders on their super-light machines, a Spanish woman who told us about the Bicing public bikes in Barcelona and, most memorably, Green Man with his lighted-up bike, who carries on a constant and very quixotic campaign for environmental sanity.

This guy felt the need to wear a facemask even on Car-Free Day, rebaptized Clean Air Day.

I doubt the day will spur any lasting changes in bogotanos'  behavior, or respect for cyclists and other non-motorized travelers. The day after, pollution was back out in force, and cars once again blocked pedestrian and cyclsts-access, because nobody counts in this town unless they're motorized!

Here's our bike tour cruising through the normally car-choked Santa Fe neighborhood.
And here's that same stretch of street the next day. See the smog-belching truck? 
We ended the day in the National Park with a protest against pollution. Both Parchita and Green Man, as well as some guys on fixie bikes, turned out in support. 
By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours