miércoles, 29 de octubre de 2014

A Modest Proposal - Make Bike Lending Useful

Waiting in the rain. Public bikes await riders by Virrey Park.
Give Bogotá's Institute for Recreation and Sports, the IDRD, credit for doing something good. Over the last 45 days or so it's added two more bike lending locations: on the National University's campus and in Virrey Park in north Bogotá.
But if only the program were all it could be. 

Yesterday afternoon I visited Virrey Park, where the 40-odd free lending bikes were mostly sitting still - understandably, in the chill and rain. City workers told me that they lent about 40 bikes on a typical day - which is nice, altho it's an expensive way to get people pedaling, considering the wages of the eight employees I counted, plus all the other costs. 

Meanwhile, on the program's Carrera Septima corridor, the bicycles are getting steady use. 

Bikes in the National University campus.
Hop on - but only if you study art or engineering.
In contrast, on the National University's campus, most of the bikes appear to spend their days parked, despite the Nacho's flat terrain and many thousands of students. Today, I learned one reason why. It turns out that, for incomprehensible reasons, the IDRD arranged the campus bicycles program with individual university schools rather than the central university administration. So far, only two of the university's eleven schools, arts and engineering, have taken the trouble to sign up. 

So, if you're an artist, then grab a bike. But if you study nursing, political science or chemistry, then you're out of luck, unless you registered for the bike program on your own.

But the program has a larger shortcoming. The IDRD's mission is to promote recreation. But the great majority of the bikes' borrowers use them for transport, albeit for short distances. But, frustratingly, users are only permitted to use bikes within each of the three lending areas, but not to pick up a bike from one area and drop it off in another. 

Riders on public bikes on Carrera Septima in central Bogotá.
But don't think about riding them to one of the
other lending sites.
A program employee agreed with my complaint, but explained that the IDRD's mission is not transport, and worried that bike users could suffer a flat tire or other mechanical problem at a spot too far to walk back. However, the IDRD's mission does not exclude transport. And surely mechanical issues could be resolved with a phone call and mobile mechanical assistance for a small fee. 

With Bogotá's long-promised public bicycles program stuck in idle, the IDRD could step in and do both the city and cycling a great favor by making its program a practical commuting option. 

A bicyclist on the Carrera 11 Cicloruta passes public lending bikes in Virrey Park. Public bike users could take this bike lane to downtown - but leaving the park is against the rules.
By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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