martes, 24 de julio de 2012

'The Bicycle as an Alternative' to Bogotá's Traffic Jams

'The Bicycle as Alternative' to Bogotá's Traffic Jams'
Today's El Tiempo editorialized in favor of promoting bicycling as a transport alternative, by building more bike parking lots and bike lanes. Bicycling is a "healthy and free-moving form of transport, whose use doesn't produce congestion and if friendly to the environment."

They're completely correct, of course - but the ambitious editorial and Bogotá's still-enduring reputation as a cycling-friendly city make the reality all the more sad. Certainly, Mayor Peñalosa did make Bogotá a pioneer - but the city's lagged since then, and its few recent efforts have been half-hearted.

A cyclist enters a public bike parking facility near La Candelaria.
The ground floor of the two-story parking building. 
A few years ago, this bike parking building opened near the Las Aguas TransMilenio station - altho only after years of delay. The building is also unnecessarily expensive and its design could be much better - but it seems to be a success. Today a guard told me that they get about 200 users a day, who park their bikes free of charge. If a significant proportion of those people are using their bikes because of the convenient and free parking, then I bet it's a good deal for the city in reduced pollution, congestion and improved health, not to mention for the cyclists themselves.
But only a few TransMilenio stations offer bicycle parking. Simple bike racks, located near security guards, at all TransMilenio stations would give a big boost to cycling. Why the city hasn't done this is beyond my comprehension. 

But this just-finished TransMilenio station on 26th St. and Carrera Decima - located right above a Cicloruta - appears to lack bike parking. 
A free bike lending program on the closed portion of Seventh Ave. 
Cyclists pedaling on a portion of Ave. Septima closed to cars while the bridge over 26th Street is replaced. 
Unfortunately, Septima looks to be reopened soon, meaning that cyclists will once again suffer, like this guy on the nearby 19th St. 
This homeless man found a home - in one of Bogotá's Ciclorutas, or bike lanes.
Unfortunately, recent mayors have done little to expand or even maintain Bogotá's once-vaunted bike lane network. This guy, one of many who camp or park cars in the bike lane behind the Central Cemetery, is indicative of the importance which officialdom gives to cyclists' needs.

A bus belches smoke today on Ave. 19. 
Can't help leaving out this photo I tood this afternoon. Why would anybody subject themself to toxic chemical attack?

By Mike Ceaser of Bogotá Bike Tours

lunes, 23 de julio de 2012

A Bicycle Not Built for Three

'Share Your Car' - if only they would. 

During a bike tour today, we met these three young people in the Santa Fe neighborhood. Bogotá's  government has started a well-meaning by pointless campaign to get people to share their cars - something which will happen only if they create real incentives or fines to spur people to change their driving habits. But these three did the city's campaign one better, by sharing their bike. In a city with low rates of car ownership and high rates of poverty, this sort of bike sharing is a common sight. I often see parents pedaling home with schoolchildren perched on the bike's bar or on the back - and sometimes even both places.

Making a special delivery near Palo Quemao Market.

On a bicycle built for three. 
'Move Yourself - Enjoy the Open Air.'

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

miércoles, 18 de julio de 2012

Can You Steer After One Beer?

Congress is considering commendable but long-overdue legislation to crack down on drunk drivers, which kills and injures many people every year in Colombia - and frequently go unpunished. And alcohol unquestionably kills and injures many cyclists - Mio newspaper reports that 15 cyclists have died so far this year because of drunk riding, and 43 were injured while pedaling under the influence. Undoubtedly, those numbers are only a fraction of the real toll, and that many more bicyclists have been killed and injured by drunk drivers. (Tragically, drunk drivers often get off with light punishments or none at all, even when they kill people, because of corruption or a general belief that drunkenness is all in good fun, and that whatever one does while drunk is forgiveable.) 
What strikes me as unwise and unrealistic about this law, particularly for cyclists, is the very low threshold to be legally inebriated, which the newspaper says can be violated by drinking only a single beer or a beer and a half. Whether that's a reasonable limit for car drivers, I can't say. But it sure seems low for cyclists, which move much slower than cars and pose much less danger for pedestrians and others. Getting caught could mean a fine of 850,000 pesos, or close to $500.000 - a lot of money for cyclists, who generally are poor or lower middle class. 
In any case, the legislation will have a tough time passing: A congresswoman who advocates for victims of drunk driving recently charged that many of her colleagues don't want to crack down on drunk driving because they do it themselves.   

Cyclists risk their lives in Bogotá's chaotic traffic even when they're not drunk. 

by Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

sábado, 14 de julio de 2012

The Bicycle's (Tiny) Corner

Restoring a classic bike. (Photo: El Tiempo)
In what seems like a commendable move, El Tiempo, Colombia's biggest newspaper, has added a regular Saturday page called 'The Bicycle Corner,' about urban cycling. Past weeks' stories have been about a women's cycling club, folding bikes and the new bike lane on Calle 26; This week's is about a group of classic bike fans.

Can you see 'The Bicycle's Corner'
amidst all those car ads?
So, good for El Tiempo for dedicating a bit of its real estate to sustainable transport. Still, it looks like a lonely business, and I'm afraid that the label of 'corner' is all too appropriate, considering the overwhelming amount of car culture and propaganda in the paper. Today's paper, for example, includes a 16-page section called 'Vehicles,' mostly about cars, trucks and motorcycles. And that's beside all the car advertisements which fill the paper every day.

'Women on Bikes' (Photo: El Tiempo)
By Mike Ceaser of Bogota Bike Tours