viernes, 18 de marzo de 2011

A U.S. Expert's View

Try biking this Cicloruta - we did!
A woman who works for a major United States city's bicycle lane program rode some of Bogotá's own Ciclorutas the other day with Bogotá Bike Tours - and she didn't give them a rave review.

(The woman, who works for a city which is expanding its own cycle route system, wanted to remain anonymous so as not to seem to be giving official views.)
A bike lane in a North American city.
We rode, or tried to, down the Cicloruta along the south side of 13th St., near downtown. But the Cicloruta was so mobbed by pedestrians that pedaling was nearly impossible. In her city, she said, the bike lanes are built on the streets, either inside or outside the line of parked automobiles. This means less conflict with pedestrians, but potentially more with car drivers.

Some parents, who worry about their children riding near traffic, might be more inclined to let their kids pedal down Bogotá-style sidewalk bike lanes, she suggested.

And, of course, traffic in Bogotá isn't traffic in the United States, where driving and pollution laws are enforced. In Bogotá, cars would undoubtedly invade bike lanes not protected by physical barriers. And, riding on the sidewalk, one is at least a bit distanced from Bogotá's highly-polluting vehicles, which are not burdened by catalytic converters.

Hazardous arcs?
The U.S. expert also observed that Bogotá's bike lanes are narrower than those in her city, and that those metal posts and arcs meant to divide Bogotá's Ciclorutas' lanes and to block cars from entering them pose a collision hazard themselves. "I don't think they'd meet our safety standards," she said. In her city, similar posts are made of flexible plastic.

In her city, too, the city has painted arrows and symbols on the streets directing cyclists to designated bike lanes.

The expert suggested that Bogotá cycling is faced with a sort of Catch 22: Too few cyclists ride Bogotá's streets (except perhaps during rush hour) to make people conscious of the bike lanes, or to make others feel like they'd be safe on their bikes.

So, Bogotá needs more cyclists out there in order to get more people bicycling!

What could start this positive cycle? She says Bogotá needs more cycling advocacy and suggests improving bicycling conditions, such as reducing pollution, as well as a government publicity campaign advocating cycling. It would be, certainly, much cheaper than the alternative - building more roads. 

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours 


Councilman Ferreira, his assistant Sandra, and Andrés Felipe debate. 
A hearing not about La Ciclovia.
This Wednesday, City Councilman Carlos Orlando Ferreira had scheduled a public hearing on the future of La Ciclovia de la Septima. (The councilman apparently did not know that city officials had promised the cycling community that the Ciclovia would not fall victim to planned Transmilenio construction on Seventh Ave.)

As it turned out, I heard only one speaker even mention La Ciclovia, altho it did become very clear that nobody plans a bike lane for Seventh Ave. Almost all the speakers at the hearing talked only about whether or not a Transmilenio line should be built on La Septima, and if so, whether full-scale TM or Mayor Moreno's 'TM light idea.'

But I did talk to folks about bicycling issues, and got updates on several cycling subjects:

- Ferreira's much-ballyhooed public bikes program apparently has not advanced - but he says he hasn't abandoned it, either. Ferreira now plans to launch a pilot project in June. But he had no more details, such as in which neighborhood it would function, or how many bikes it would involve. Which suggests to me that it won't happen. And, as I've written before, to make public bikes succesful, Bogotá needs to solve problems such as the chaotic traffic and pollution so that people are willing to get on bicycles.
A Bogotá Cicloruta, near downtown.
- Mayor Moreno's promise to build 20 kilometers of new Ciclorutas hasn't happened. Andrés Felipe Vergara, a member of the city's Bicyclists' Consultant Group (Mesa de la Bicicleta) and leader of the Wednesday night bike rides, said the city recently built about a kilometer of new bike lane in north Bogotá, around 125th St. - but that this Cicloruta is poorly designed and impractical to use.

Andrés sketches a disjointed Cicloruta.
- Andrés also pointed out a fundamental problem with the city's Ciclorutas - they were built and are (supposed to be) maintained by about four different public agencies - the city's Transit agency, the Urban Development Institute (IDU), the water district, and maybe even more. Each agency has built some stretches of Ciclorutas, but there's little coordination between them, so the network is disjointed and unconnected. Also, many are poorly maintained, and with such a variety of agencies, it's hard pinning responsibilities.

- Andrés also gave me a sad news item. The Mesa de la Bicicleta, a sort of citizens' consultancy group on cycling issues, has ceased to meet. Andrés said this is because nobody listened to their proposals. The Moreno administration has never seemed interested in cycling issues.

The Las Aguas bicycle parking facility. 

- Finally, the bicycle parking building at the Las Aguas TM station is operating, and is being used, altho demand has not been overwhelming. Today, I counted about a dozen bikes hanging inside (it has some 140 spaces) - which at least means a dozen cyclists' lives facilitated - and perhaps a few more bikes on the road. The facility opened after sitting empty for years, and only after cyclists held a mock funeral in protest.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours