martes, 27 de diciembre de 2011

Medellin's Public Bicycles Roll Forward

EnCicla riders ready to roll. (Photo: Medellin Transit Dep't)
While Bogotá's 'public bicycles' gather dust somewhere, Medellin is expanding its own system.

Bogotá would appear to lend itself more to public bicycles: it's a big, flat, dense city with a reputation as a cycling pioneer - and lots of traffic jams. But Medellin has been rolling forward with its program, called EnCicla, while Bogotá's is parked.

Jesus David Acero, the program's administrator and an official with Medellin's transit office, said Medellin's program has succeeded thanks to careful groundwork and planning -and most of all support from municipal and regional officials.

Medellin had cycling experts design its system, Acero said, and used specially-designed bicycles, together with software to manage the system.

Medellin's pre-designed bicycles.
(Photo: Medellin Transit Dep't)
In contrast, Acero says, Bogotá employed ordinary bicycles and neither carefully planned its pilot public bicycles project, nor has produced a thorough analysis of its results.

Still, Bogotá's public bike test program, called BiciBog, was quite well received and got good use - at least in its north Bogotá station. The south Bogotá trial received less demand, perhaps because many of the residents in the lower-income area have their own bicycles, as well as because of competition there from bicitaxis.

But Bogotá officials haven't indicated when or whether they'll continue the system. Acero says, however, that officials from the administration of incoming leftist Bogotá mayor Gustavo Petro have indicated interest in creating a public bike program here.

Meanwhile, Medellin's public bike program is still technically in its pilot stage, but has been extended until March of 2012 and expanded from being available to only the students of two universities to the public in general. Not one of the bikes, which are equipped with GPS trackers, has been stolen.

Currently, the program has 145 bicycles, 105 of which are in the city and 40 in a rural park area and 11 parking stations. Users pay nothing and get to use the bikes for one hour at a time. Those who go over the limit lose borrowing privileges for three days.

Bogotá's public bicycles in action. They weren't designed for shared use, however. And they're now collecting dust. (
How much more the program can expand, Acero says, will depend on how much support they get from politicians and businesses. During 2011, the city funded the program with one (American) billion pesos, but Acer's hoping to get five times that much for 2012. Users have indicated a willingness to pay for the service, but only about 1,000 pesos per ride, so the program is seeking business sponsors.

The Medellin government "will have a hard time not expanding the public bikes program," Acero says, "because it's been very well accepted."

But Acero expresses lots of frustration about Bogotá's lack of progress. In fact, at this writing the folks in charge of BiciBog have yet to deliver their final report, which has been postponed at least once.

EnCicla's Facebook Page.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

La Ciclovia is Good Business!

Ciclovia-type events' economic benefits far outweigh their costs. 
Bogotá's fun, healthful Ciclovia is sometimes described as 'the world's longest street party.'

But it also gets criticized as a frivolous luxury which should be restricted to reduce inconveniences for cars. A few years ago, a congressman tried and failed to cut back La Ciclovia's ending time to noon from 2 p.m. for just that reason.

Kids ride new bikes on Bogotá's Ciclovia. 
After all, everybody knows that automobile drivers are doing something important, while joggers, skaters and bicyclists are wasting time which could be better spent burning fossil fuels.

But now a study published in the Journal of Urban Health finds that Ciclovias, which were pioneered by Bogotá, are good for the economy, too.

The researchers looked at four Ciclovia-type events: in Bogotá and Medellin; Guadalajara, Mexico and San Francisco, California.

The researchers tried to evaluate to what extent the Ciclovía events increased participants' physical activity and also calculated the events' costs. Bogotá's Ciclovia came out first on all points. Firstly, it's the cheapest per-capita of all of the events, at only U.S. $6.00 per participant per year, compared to $6.5 for Guadalajara, $23.4 for Medellin and $70.5 for San Francisco. That's likely because of the Bogotá Ciclovia's great number of participants and greater frequency than the events in other cities. What's more, the Bogotá Ciclovia also produced more savings per peso or dollar invested than the other Ciclovias, all of which were 'profitable,' according to the study. Bogotá's Ciclovía returned between $3.23 and $4.26 for each dollar invested, Medellin's $1.83, Guadalajara's $1.02 to $1.23 and  San Francisco's $2.32.

Doing aerobics in the Recrovia, part of the Ciclovia. 
The 'profits' include only saved medical costs, and not the healthier people's greater productivity at work, which must be substantial.

The return on investment is lots bigger than that produced by a gymnasium or a swimming pool because the infrastructure - roads and parks - is already built.

Of course, La Ciclovía's real value is in the improved quality of life it produces. But cold economic numbers like these justify La Ciclovia for businessmen who are addicted to their cars, or even sell cars.

Comparative weekly costs of various physical activity programs. Bogotá's Ciclovia is the furthest left.
Thanks to this 'silly and inconvenient' Ciclovia event, their employees are happier, more productive, miss fewer days of work and have lower health care costs.

Now, if only Bogotá would improve cycling conditions during the other six days of the week!

See also: Study: Health benefits outweigh costs of ciclovia events

By Mike Ceaser of Bogotá Bike Tours

lunes, 12 de diciembre de 2011

Chevy's Battle Against the Bike!

'Now, I ride a bicycle, but...With ChevyPlan I'll have my new Chevrolet'
Chevrolet has published this ad in Bogotá's El Espectador newspaper and Semana magazine, and likely other publications, inviting people to give up their bicycles for cars (Chevys, of course).

Chevy's plan for Bogota - even more traffic jams?
Naturally, car companies want to sell cars, even tho it's plain to anybody with eyes that automobiles are killing this city, with worsening noise, air pollution, sedentarism and traffic jams.

Of course, it's too much to expect the huge automobile industry to stop advertising. Still, it's particularly ugly to see them urging people to give up a healthy, efficient form of transit for a destructive one.

In response, Claudio Olivares Medina created this BicPlan on his Urban Cycling blog:

"Now I drive a car, but...a bicycle is fast, you have a good time and you laugh at the traffic congestion - and don't pay.

"Plan with intelligence. Mobilize yourself without stress, without debts and without Chevrolet."

Now, if only cycling had the auto industry's advertising budget!

One day, hoefully, cars and car advertising will be seen as what they are - as destructive as tobacco and smoking - and equally restricted.

Drive your life! With Nissan. In January, many thousands of additional cars will clog Bogotá's streets. 

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

The Squeaky Wheel Gets the...Bike Rack

A bicycling family visits Bogotá's Central Cemetery. 
The powers that be do respond - at least sometimes. All it took was a letter to the administration of Bogotá's Central Cemetery to get a much-needed bicycle parking rack installed in the main entrance. More than a year ago, the cemetery installed a rack at the rear entrance - also after Bogotá Bike Tours's request - but that side is far from many of the most important tombs.

Now, not only tourists, but, more importantly, local residents, can safely and conveniently visited loved ones' tombs by bicycle.

The cemetery has long had a parking lot for cars. So, the very fact that we had to request a bike rack shows the mentality that 'automobile parking is a right, while bicycle parking is a privilege' - even tho the law requires such places to offer bicycle parking.

Previously, visitors had to leave their bikes outside the gate - despite the ample space inside. Recently,   while we were visiting the cemetery, thieves stole one of Bogotá Bike Tours' bikes.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours