sábado, 30 de noviembre de 2013

A Human Powered Vehicles Race in La Nacho

With its curved cockpit, this may have been the coolest-looking recumbent in the race.
Today was the second and final day of the human powered vehicle competition held on the National University's Bogotá campus. The vehicles, which appeared to be all recumbents, were built by teams from different universities. (One was adjusted and finished up in Bogotá Bike Tours office.)

I'm not sure I've ever seen a ecumbent on a Bogotá street. The low seated position would make it hard to see in Bogotá's chaotic traffic - and for motoized vehicles to see the cyclist.

The tricylists didn't seem particularly fast, but I guess that's,not their goal - except for today.
This recumbent bike appeared to be mortally wounded.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

sábado, 16 de noviembre de 2013

Expo Bici

Bogotá's Bicycle Week wrapped up today with commercialism and fun and games - as well as a bit of substance - at the Expo Bici, a fair of bicycle products, activities and literature.

'To High School by Bike.' This program, by the Institute of Recreation and Sports (IDRD), teaches kids how to use and maintain their bikes, and organizes group bike rides, to encourage kids to ride to school. 

Off to school by bike. 

IDRD images of bike lane works. 

The BiciTante is a slick, colorful little magazine dedicated to cycling, which has published two editions. 

Bicycle media. 
Bogotá's bicycle literature has recently experienced a minor boom, with blogs and a magazine, the Bicitante.

A pair of unicyclists.

Bike Culture at La Tadeo University. 
But this offers a moment of frankness: 'Lots of 'Likes', Few Bikes.' The other day, I saw about 10 bikes in Tadeo University's parking lot. The school has thousands of students. 


A circus performer gets a lift from a bicycle tourist.

Bamboo bikes got lots of attention. 

By Mike Ceaser , of Bogotá Bike Tours

domingo, 10 de noviembre de 2013

Kicking Off Bogotá's Bicycle Week

'Welcome to the Day of the Bicycle.' If only every day were bicycle day...
Bogotá's 6th Week of the Bicycle kicked off today in the Parque Nacional with mountain bike races, an exhibition of low-rider and old timey bikes and even a bicycle museum. The week will also have forums, a bike show and other events.

These things are fine, and hopefully will popularize cycling here. But I've always believed that reducing air pollution, making car drivers respect cyclists and making cars pay their costs to society (read: more expensive gasoline, higher taxes and charging for car parking) are necessary to motivate more Bogotanos to get onto bikes.

'Fewer Cars, More Bikes.' Let's hope so.
Entrance to the bicycle museum.
A bicycle by Leonardo da Vinci inside the Bicycle Museum.
A low-rider bike. 
I didn't know Guy Fawkes cycled. 
A rider pumps uphill in the Parque Nacional.
Kids pedal thru a maze in the Parque Nacional. 

Bikes and riders from days gone by.

Women mountain bikers charge uphill in the Parque Nacional.
By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

Public Bikes in Bogotá¡? (Chap. 43)

Cyclists ride down Ave. Septima on lent municipal bikes, Bogotá's only public bikes program. 
Bogotá just announced that the city will finally, finally, create a real public bike program next year.

This is approximately the umpteenth time that various city officials have announced that public bikes are coming, with few results. They even tried a pilot program, which was fairly successful, but hasn't been followed up.

Pedaling down 26th St. amidst traffic.
How many Bogotanos will dare?
Public bikes are coming, tardily, to a city once seen as a trailblazer for cyclists, with its bike lane network and Sunday/holiday Ciclovia. Other Latin American capitals, including Buenos Aires, Santiago, Chile and Mexico City - not to mention Medellin - rolled out their public bikes months or years ago. (Bogotá's existing public bikes lending program is limited to 25 blocks of Ave. Septima north of Plaza Bolivar. Bogotá's other foray into bike lending, on the National University's campus, died a quiet death after bikes were damaged and stolen.)

Bogotá's own public bikes program is supposed to start in mid-2014 and consist of almost 3,000 bikes and 280 stations. A study of bicycle use in the city concluded that Kennedy, Chapinero, Teusaquillo and Usaquen - but apparently not the city center - are the most promising neighborhoods to begin. That will leave out huge parts of Bogotá, making me think that the project's usefulness will be limited.

Perhaps paradoxically, I also wonder whether the project is too ambitious. After all, Medellin has just a
Will public bikes motivate the city to better maintain bike lanes?
couple of hundred public bikes, while New York started off with 6,000. Can Bogotá really get its act together enough to make 3,000 bikes work? This will require lots of parking racks, (and hopefully) new bike lanes and signage to get people to use the bikes, as well as software, bike transport and payments systems, not to mention security so that the bikes don't get stolen.

Hopefully, bike lanes will be expanded, maintained and kept clear of cars and pedestrians to make casual cyclists feel safe.

The rack modules are supposed to be autonomously powered and not moored to the pavement, making them easily moveable. I hope that theyve considered the danger of thieves loading a complete rack with bikes into a truck and driving away. The whole program is projected to cost 30 billion pesos, part of which is supposed to be pitched in by an as-yet unnamed private company. Users are to pay between 60,000 and 80,000 pesos, presumably per year, plus additional charges for holding onto a bike for longer than the alloted time.

A bicyclist pedals along Calle 26, which has a
practical sidewalk bike lane. He may be moving
faster than the congested car traffic.
I'm also waiting to see how the city handles the issue of helmets. The law requires their use, altho that rule is rarely enforced. If the city decides to require public bike users to wear helmets, I'm afraid it could kill the program, since many people don't want to share a helmet, and almost nobody carries a bike helmet around with them.

And Bogotá is not London, Paris or Barcelona, where I'm told that cyclists get respect from drivers. Will enough Bogotanos dare to jump onto bikes and brave Bogotá's rain, pollution and aggressive drivers to make the program succeed? If public bikes fail here, it'll be a big blow to cycling.

Meanwhile, Mayor Petro is fighting to stay in office. If he goes, the whole idea likely will, too.
Riding in the cold rain on Ave. Septima.
The Dutch don't mind doing it, but many Bogotanos do.

But let's have faith. In addition to creating more cyclists, my great hope for public bikes in Bogotá is that they will raise cycling's status here and motivate the city to improve conditions for bicyclists.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

miércoles, 6 de noviembre de 2013

Give Bogotá Points for Trying

The city government has plastered central Bogotá (at least) with these posters announcing the pluses of bicycling.

"I enjoy the clouds, look at the trees," says Zoraya Perez, on her bicycle loaded with packages.

"The bicycle benefits me in work," says Jesús Antonio Medina, perhaps a delivery man.

"While I ride my bike, others can breathe better," says Luis Hernando Rivas.

The city also set up a website called Bicion and have a radio ads using the slogan 'My style is the bicycle.'

Controlling air pollution would make
cycling more pleasant and healthy.
Good for the city. I hope this campaign will make existing cyclists feel better about riding. But will the campaign convince many Bogotanos to switch from four wheels to two? I doubt it, particularly in the face of the constant, massive and propaganda onslaught telling people that 'cars are great and you need one to be loved and respected.' More than 100,000 new cars enter Bogotá each year, pushing the city closer to being one big traffic jam. Meanwhile, lowering the price of gas seems to be one of the national government's central goals.

As positive as it is to see the city of Bogotá promoting cycling, it also makes me ask why the cyclists themselves, as well as the bicycle industry, aren't doing it. The danger here is that officialdom co-opts Bogotá's as-yet-unborn pro-cycling movement, making it difficult for future activists to oppose city policies.

I was saddened, but not surprised, to read one of Bicion's creators complaining about non-attendance at its organized rides. In fact, Bogotá ciclistas do turn out for mass bike rides - but not for political ones.
Big cars block bicyclists entering a park in Bogotá. Enforcing parking laws might make cycling easier. 

'My Style is the Bicycle,' on a bus stop billboard.
Transport for the masses? A cyclist weaves
thru obstacles on Carrera Septima. 
The Bicion website also contains handy tips, including to eat well before your bike ride and to check the weather forecast. The site also advises car drivers to stay a safe distance from cyclists and not to block bike lanes. Perhaps a few of them will actually read it.

In any case, it's long seemed to me that more important than propaganda is improving conditions for cyclists: creating more, and more usable, bike lanes (not on crowded sidewalks, please), controlling air pollution and citing drivers for blocking bike lanes and the ramps which cyclists and pedestrians use.

The pleasures of cycling on Bogotá's streets. 

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours