sábado, 25 de agosto de 2012

A Constituency for Cycling?

But will bike lanes
change the city?
A meeting last night at the Institute of Urban Development (IDU) included more promises of new Ciclorutas - this time along El Parkway (in Teusaquillo), Ave. Carrera 50 and by Mundo Aventura.

But while those bike lanes would bring positive - if only incremental - improvements for cyclists, probably the most notable thing about the meeting was the turnout: Several dozen people, on a Friday evening for a topic that's more technical than sexy.

Bike lanes ignored and blocked.
Sure, that's nothing compared to the thousands who turn out for those REALLY IMPORTANT THINGS like football team rallies, Madonna concerts and protests against the free trade agreement. But, for a slideshow about planned bike lane routes, it's pretty good.

"Just a year or two ago, only four or five souls came to these meetings," observed Camilo Rey Ladino.

The crowd came close to filling the meeting room. 
The audience also seemed quite engaged, with frequent questions and comments, altho many of them less than positive about cycling conditions here. I and others commented about the constant invasions of bike lanes by homeless people, who find them convenient camping spots, and cars, which park on top of them with total impunity. What's the point, I ask, in building more bike lanes if they're not respected? Bogotá needs deep cultural shifts, not only among drivers and the homeless, but also police, who evidently don't see bike lanes as important enough to be defended. The city has 20 'Guardianes de las Ciclorutas,' but I've never seen one actually

Cycling activists outside the meeting show off
'One Less Car' bike stickers.
The three new bike lanes still have several hurdles to overcome, including feasability studies and financing. Along the Parkway, will residents protest the loss of parking spaces - even tho they are parking illegaly, in any case?

Another positive point was speaker Jesus Acero, who designed Medellin's public bicycle system as well as one for Bogotá which hasn't been implemented. Cyclists are fortunate to have such an enthusiastic advocate in city planning.

Acero said Medellin's public bike system is expanding, with the addition of 175 bikes (it has 145 now) and six more lending stations. As for Bogotá, "studies are advancing," Acero said. But, of course, we've heard that for years about public bikes here.

A scheme showing the
signals included with bike lanes.
Unfortunately, Bogotá's urbann planning establishment may still be wedded to motor transport, despite Mayor Gustavo Petro's verbal support of cycling. I noticed the decades-old photos on the meeting room's walls, which displayed wide avenues for cars, with no accomodations for cyclists, or even pedestrians in many cases.

Jesus Acero speaking. 
Acero said the city is also looking at building 23 bike parking lots and three bike bridges. Acero said that Bogotá residents make 450,000 trips per day by bicycle (a statistic which strikes me as inflated in a city of 9 million)

"Obviously, there's much greater need," for bicycle infrastructure, he said.

"We'll see whether they actually do it," observed Andres Felipe Vergara. "There's a big gulf between words and actions."

No bike lanes here: A decades-old photo of an urban avenue on the IDU meeting room's walls. Many Bogotá avenues haven't changed much. 
But there's also much more need for changing Bogotá's transit culture. As long as motor vehicles pump fumes in cyclists' faces with impunity and take for granted that the motor vehicle has all the rights all the time, many people will not dare to pedal Bogotá's streets - bike lanes or no bike lanes.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

The kind of bike lane we don't need more of, near San Victorino Plaza. 
A good bike lane, near Paloquemao Market. 
A bicyclist on the Parkway, which may get a bike lane, but perhaps needs one less than other avenues. 

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