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

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