miércoles, 30 de septiembre de 2015

Laws for Biking?

It has an engine, burns fuel, belches smoke and goes vroom. So is it a bicycle or a motorcycle? 
Colombian lawmakers are considering pro-cycling laws right now - but unfortunately they likely won't get much priority - and lots of opposition.

A bici-motor in a downtown bike lane.
One would prohibit bicycles equipped with motors from bike lanes. It might just seem like common sense that a bicycle with a motor is, by definition, a motorcycle. However, because the motors' have less than 50 cc of displacement, the city's motor vehicle laws don't cover them, That's despite their being very noisy and often generating more pollution than a car, since their two-stroke engines burn oil.

One complication with banning the motorized bikes from bike lanes is distinguishing them from electric bikes, which are also motor-powered, but don't pollute or make much noise and go much slower than gasoline-powered motor-bikes. The electric bikes aren't a problem, the gasoline-powered ones are.

In any case, if this legislation nears becoming law, you can expect the motor-bikes' makers and users to scream that barring them from bike lanes violates their human rights. But that's not all. Even when they're on the street, they should be equipped with anti-pollution devices and their riders should be licensed.

A second law, in Congress, is intended to promote cycling - actually has some good things: It would provide some financial incentives, albeit small ones, for frequent cyclists, and would also give extra time off for public employees who commute by bike.

Unfortunately, the benefits are slight compared to the huge subsidies given to motor vehicles, such as free parking and subsidized fuel - not to mention the non-stop onslaught of pro-car propaganda.

The law's most important benefit might be a change of mentality legitimizing bike commuting in a climate where many workplaces provide no place for bike parking, much less showers or a changing room.

Businesses will undoubtedly oppose this legislation, as more costs and government regulation. This despite the fact that more bike commuters means healthier employees, and each worker who switches from driving to cycling can mean big savings in less parking.

By Mike Ceaser of Bogota Bike Tours

jueves, 24 de septiembre de 2015

Petro's Polemic Bike Lanes

Cars wait beside an empty bike lane on Calle 39, in Teusaquillo.
Bogotá Mayor Gustavo Petro is using the last months of his term to add bike lanes to some of the city's avenues - and earning ire for it. Neighbors and motorists have complained and even organized protests against proposed lanes.

But isn't there a logical flaw here? Drivers complain because they feel that bike lanes steal space from them, slowing them down and increasing congestion.
Cars stuck in a traffic jam beside a bike lane on Calle 24. None of these people could have used a bicycle instead?
But don't these lanes, rather, offer an escape route from the inevitable and worsening traffic jams? The number of private cars in Bogotá is booming, and a first subway line - which won't solve traffic congestion, anyway - is more than a decade away. City leaders are afraid of the only realistic solution, a congestion charge. So, the bike lanes are commuters only real escape hatch from traffic jams.

Instead of complaining about traffic jams, drivers should start taking advantage of them. And they should remember that each of those annoying cyclists is potentially one fewer driver slowing them down.

A cyclist waits for a light to change in a bike lane along the Parkway in Teusaquillo.

A group of cyclists in the new bike lane on Calle 39.
And here's a street, Ave. Caracas, which could use a bike lane.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours