viernes, 30 de septiembre de 2011

How to Make Bogotá Bikeable

Juan Pablo Garcia discusses bicycle use patterns. 
At a conference in La Candelaria this evening, speakers talked about how to make Bogotá more bikeable.

Bogotá has, of course, become known globally for its pro-cycling projects, mostly the ciclorutas and Ciclovia. But, for all that Bogotá's done for bicycling, which is lots more than have many other developing world cities, today's speakers described the cup as half-empty.

Camilo Rey, of Verde Extremo, gave an impassioned talk about his group's mountain biking activities - which hopefully will translate into more people riding bikes in the city - in addition to loading them onto cars and pedaling across the countryside.

City Councilman Roberto Saenz, also a leader of Agenda Bogotá, gave some disappointing statistics. Bicycling proponents have complained a lot recently about the lack of maintenance and expansion of the city's Cicloruta network. But Saenz said that the city government in fact does have a big budget for the ciclorutas - but that city officials bungled the contract process and so cannot spend the money.

Saenz also talked about something which hits close to my heart and lungs. A couple of years ago, the state oil company EcoPetrol promised to slash the percentage of sulphur, the primary pollutant, from over a 1,000 parts per million down to 50 ppm, which is a respectable number for a developing country, albeit still much higher than that in the U.S. and Europe. Unsurprisingly, it hasn't happened, and Bogotá's diesel still contains a poisonous 300 ppm of sulphur. Pour that stuff into Bogotá's fleet of ancient cars and buses and its new fleet of cheap Chinese vehicles, and it's no wonder that many avenues are still smoky canyons. And why cyclists are forced to choke on fumes.

EcoPetrol had said that because of its lack of refining capacity it would import clean diesel in order to provide clean fuel for the capital. Instead, it looks like the EcoPetrol execs believe it's more important to increase profits and let Bogotanos continue breathing smoke until their new refinery is finally on line. Even so, Bogotá could still do lots to clean its air by junking dirty vehicles and enforcing pollution laws generally.

Saenz offered a scary statistic: some 300,000 new cars enter Colombia every year, delighting retailers but condemning the city to worsening traffic gridlock and pollution. It's easy to see that unless the city promotes alternative transport, it'll become unliveable. Nevertheless, insanely, city officials still appear to be building transport policy around an exploding number of private cars.

And Saenz made a key suggestion: Bogotá needs an official in city government with real power charged with advocating bicycling interests, to whom cyclists can go with complaints and ideas. As it is, the huge economic and cultural forces promoting an auto-based culture push the city that way, no matter how unsustainable that model proves itself.

Use of the Ciclorutas is rising - slowly. 
Juan Pablo Garcia, an urban planning expert, showed a study 2010 of urban cycling which found that use of the Ciclorutas has been rising, albeit slowly. The study also found that demand for ciclorutas is much stronger in western Bogotá than on the city's easter side. That's likely because the west is poorer, and most of Bogotá's bike commuters are doing it save money rather than save the world. Sadly, only when more yuppies and execs start pedaling will bikes get priority. But those privileged people won't pull their two-wheelers out of the garage until cycling conditions improve. I call that a Catch-22.

Garcia also pointed out that use of the few TransMilenio stations with bike parking facilities is very unequal. (Why all TM stations don't have bike racks is beyond me).

In any case, Garcia said, the study fell on deaf ears in the city government transportation department.

Yours truly also pitched in, opining that, no matter how great the city's bicycle lanes may be, it won't be a good biking city until it controls pollution, tames traffic and until drivers learn to respect cyclists and pedestrians.

Finally, Jesus Acero described the advances of the public bicycles system in the city of Medellin, where the concept is actually advancing and will soon launch two pilot projects, one in the city and another in a park area outside of it. Their system sounds sophisticated - the bikes will have GPSs and use solar power. Users will have to register, and the first hour will be free. But they're dealing with a legal complication which will also hinder a public bikes program in Bogotá, if the city ever starts one. Medellin requires cyclists to wear helmets, but the sort of casual riders who will use the system aren't likely to carry bike helmets around with them all day. So, Acero said that as a sort of half-way solution, which sounds like a token gesture to city officials, they're going to give bike helmets to the first 100 people who sign up for the public bikes program. Hopefully, those people won't leave their helmets at home.

Even so, Medellin's biggest challenge is likely to be the city's hills.

By Mike Ceaser of Bogotá Bike Tours, the fun way to see the city!

jueves, 29 de septiembre de 2011

Make Your Own Cicloruta!

Bogotá's known for its network of bicycle lanes, known as Ciclorutas. But lots of streets frequented by cyclists lack them. As part of Bogotá's Bicycle Week, a group designated new 'Ciclorutas' by stenciling bicycles onto streets near the Central University.

Maybe it's working - a cyclist passes by. 
The Universidad Central's parking lot has a practical bike rack - something rarely seen. 
But the bicyclists' battle's still not won, as the number of cars shows. 
By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

miércoles, 28 de septiembre de 2011

The Wednesday Bike Ride Rolls South!

L to R: Andres, who guides the Wednesday rides, Camilo, an organizer of Bicycle Week, the Green Man, and someone I don't know. 
This evening, in honor of Bicycle Week, the regular Ciclopaseo de los Miercoles (Wednesday Bicycle Ride) started out by the Universidad Central instead of is usual starting point in north Bogotá.

The ride, consisting of about 80 people, rode thru La Candelaria and then south, thru Belen, Las Cruces and other poor, rough neighborhoods where outsiders ordinarily have to be wary even during the day. Our group stuck together, and when someone got a flat tire, we all waited.

In La Plaza del Chorro, in La Candelaria

An overturned bike awaits its rider in La Plaza del Chorro.
Of the 80 riders, perhaps a half dozen were female - altho that might be more than the proportion of female cyclists in general in Bogotá.
Fixing a flat in South Bogotá.
During a repair stop in the poor Las Cruces neighborhood, residents watch the spectacle thru a window. They probable see few wealthy college kids here - much less after dark. Most of Bogotá's bicycle commuters are poor people doing it to save money, but for cultural reasons they're not likely to become activists for cycling. 
A doll's leg protrudes from trash piled on a Las Cruces sidewalk.
I don't know the guy on the left, but on the right is German, who has advocated cycling as both a college professor and in his previous position handling transit issues for Bogotá's Chamber of Commerce. 
In a blur of motion, my dog Parchita follows the group. She seems to enjoy herself, but a crowd of bicycles also confuses her. 
A motorcycle cop appeared and escorted us part of the way, altho we had no incidents.
A pause. 
This woman came out of a restaurant to ask what the heck was going on.
Getting ready to roll along Carrera 10. The city is building a TransMilenio express bus line along this avenue, but it doesn't appear to include a bike lane, as I understood new TM lines were supposed to. However, the sidewalk is wide enough that it's really irrelevent. 
Smiling riders. 

Green Man's green bike.  
 By Mike Ceaser of Bogotá Bike Tours

lunes, 26 de septiembre de 2011

Ride the City - Bogotá

A very nice Bogotá bike lane, this one connecting the National University to Simon Bolivar Park
Ride the City, a website which provides information for cyclists about routes, repair shops and destinations, now has a Bogotá page.

This provides another excuse for looking at the state of Bogotá's system of bike lanes, called ciclorutas

Bogotá's ciclorutas have received lots of criticism recently for deterioration and lack of connectivity. While those criticisms are somewhat true, I don't find their condition worse than that of many Bogotá streets, which is often poor. And, while it's true that the ciclorutas often don't connect, they do go to many places. However, poor design - many are on sidewalks, where they fill with pedestrians, or run alongside congested roads, forcing cyclists to swallow diesel fumes - and lack of civic culture: the ciclorutas get blocked by cars and handcarts, discourages cyclists from using them (or bicycling at all).

In addition, I'd understood that all new TransMilenio lines were to include ciclorutas, but that doesn't appear to be happening at least on Calle 26, which runs to the airport. Some other places, the opposite is happening.

Here, a look at the good and (mostly) the bad, the new and the old, of Bogotá's ciclorutas.

Bicyclists on Calle 26, which has no bike lane, despite plenty of space for a bike lane.
A cyclist winds his way between cars and buses on Calle 26.
Calle 26 further west, near Simon Bolivar Park. Before TransMilenio construction, the cicloruta ran down the middle of the avenue. I hope that they don't have the new cicloruta jump between the sidewalk and avenue's center, which will discourage use.
This avenue connects Calle 26, which had a good cicloruta and hopefully will again, to Simon Bolivar Park, which is popular with bicyclists. So, I've never comprehended why this avenue lacks a cicloruta, despite plenty of space. (Photo taken during a Sunday Ciclovia, when the avenue is closed to cars. The rest of the week it's hazardous.)
In the Los Martires district cyclists ride in the street despite the presence of a cicloruta, which is just lines painted on a sidewalk.
The city put lots of money into these 200 meters of cicloruta, which are even protected by walls. The designers didn't consider that this would make the lane a convenient waiting and vending area for the nearby hospital, making it unusable for cyclists.
Carrera 3, in the Las Nieves area. The sidewalk used to have a cicloruta painted on it, but it disappeared during TransMilenio construction.
By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

domingo, 25 de septiembre de 2011

Fixies Fire Up Bogotá Bicycle Week

Fixed gear bike riders after a polo game in the National Park
Bogotá's Bicycle Week 2011 included a bicycle polo match in the National Park. I missed it, but got some pics of the colorful bicycles, almost all of which are 'fixies.'

Fixed-gear bicycles have become much more common here during the last few years, altho they still number in the low dozens, I suspect. They've also got their own very active organization:

Fixing a fixie.

Skull and Simon Bolivar.

Bogotá Fixed
A bike polo player.
 By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

Bicycle Week in Bogotá!

Bicyclists on Bogotpa's world-renowned Ciclovia. 
This is Bicycle Week in Bogotá. (Every week should be Bicycle Week, of course.) 

Here's the schedule:

Friday Sept. 23rd
Discussion: The bicycle as a Means of Sustainable Transport
Jorge Tadeo University Carrera 4 No. 22-61
Sala de Artes Visuales Modulo 7 Piso 7
6 pm to 7 pm

Saturday 24th
Carnaval of Clean Transport
Sponsored by Greenpeace and

Sunday 25th
Extreme Sports - Exhibition of Bike Polo in the National Park
11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Bogotá Cup Mountain biking Championship.
Castillo de Marroquin
8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Coloful bikes overlook Bogotá.

Weds. 28th
Videos about cycling in Bogotá
Universidad Central parking lot, Calle 22 No. 5-57
5 pm to 7 pm

Wednesday Ciclopaseo
Universidad Central parking lot, Calle 22 No. 5-57
7 pm to 9 pm

Thurs 29th
Request your Cicloruta and International Videos
Cicloruta connectiveness: 'Because the Ciclorutas continue...'

Universidad Central parking lot, Calle 22 No. 5-57
3 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Afternoon snack (You must arrive by bike)
Aseis Manos Restaurant Calle 22 No. 8-60/62
3 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Forum-Workshop and Videos
Aseis Manos Restaurant Calle 22 No. 8-60/62
5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Friday 30th
La Bicicletada, bicycle lunch and conferencias.
'Art, culture, gastronomy and environmentalism by bike'

Universidad Central parking lot, Calle 22 No. 5-57
11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Bicycle Lunch (You must arrive by bike)
Aseis Manos Restaurant Calle 22 No. 8-60/62
Restaurant Asamira Carrera 3 No. 13-55 La Candelaria
1 p.m. to 3 p.m.

Luis Angel Arango Library Calle 11 No. 4-14 La Candelaria
3 p.m. to 6 p.m.

For more information, contact Mariana Guhl: 311-532-3959 or 323-9868 Ext. 1106 at the Universidad Central

Or Camilo Rey Ladino 310-226-7748

On Facebook and Twitter see: La Bicicletada

A cyclist rides (legally) on a sidewalk along a street with no bicycle lane.