domingo, 11 de junio de 2017

A Real Bike Café: The Fuga Café + Bikes

The Fuga Café + Bikes, which actually repairs bikes.
Bogotá has had a mini-boom recently in bicycle-themed eateries. But for some of them, the bicycle is merely decoration.

A high-end racing frame, set among bicycling books,
mostly in English.
That's not true, however, for the awkwardly named Fuga Café + Bikes, tucked behind a building just off of 81st St. and around the corner from the 11th-St. Cicloruta, on the edge of La Zona Rosa (Calle 81 #11-55). Fuga means 'escape', as in a group of racers who escape from the pack.

Yuppies at work.
Besides the bicycle racing theme: glossy photo books (strangely, mostly in English), high-end bikes on display and constant bike races on the tele, the café also has a working bike repair shop, altho I suspect that the charges are a bit steeper than the repair outfits which set up on the sidewalk along the nearby bike lane. But the repairman appears to keep busy, and the café really is frequented by cyclists, judging by the bikes in the rack outside its window.

But if you go, get your wallet ready. A tea cost me 5,000 pesos - steep by central Bogotá standards, if
not necessarily by Zona Rosa standards, or for the yuppies inside pecking away at their laptops.

A working repair shop.
Energy foods, to keep those yuppies typing.

A TV streams bike races.
The Fuga café is out of the price range for most of the working class cyclists who abound on the nearby bike lane.

Cyclists wait to cross a street in the rain on the Carrera 11 cicloruta.

Around the corner, 14 Ochomiles and El Toma Corriente make this something of a cycling district.
By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

sábado, 10 de junio de 2017

A Tale of Two Ciclorutas

Pedaling past congested cars on Carrera 11's bike lane.
Rush hour on the bike lane. 
The Cicloruta, or bike lane, which runs up carreras 13 and 11 from the Museo Nacional to Calle 100 represents and best and worst in Bogotá bicycle infrastructure. So much, that it's more accurately two bike lanes stitched together.

The 18-block stretch between calles 82 and 100 are wide, clear and smooth: great for cyclists' self-esteem - particularly when one is sailing past cars jammed against each other. Perhaps the sight of us free and fast cyclists will persuade a few drivers to emerge from their steel cans.

But even on the bike lane, cars cause problems. Here, waiting for a traffic jam to clear.
South of Calle 82, riding around a car
stopped across the sidewalk bike lane.
South of 82nd street, however, the bike lane shifts onto the sidewalk, where cyclists must dodge pedestrians and delivery vehicles, not to mention cars waiting at stop signs and the occasional dog. As bad as it is for the cyclist, this arrangement must be more miserable for the poor pedestrian, who steps across the sidewalk only to have a furiously pedaling commuter rush past them. And the cyclist feels like an interloper, a bully rushing between pedestrians and swerving around them.

Sidewalk riding can be crowded.

A ´puddle and broken pavement.

Amphibious cyclilng, anyone?

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

jueves, 8 de junio de 2017

These Bikes Make a Handy....Tent

A tent where a bike repair stand used to be.
On a soggy afternoon, with few flats needing patching, a pair of bike repair guys on the Carrera 11 sidewalk, in front of the Universidad Pedagogica, flipped over their bikes, tied a plastic sheet between them, and retired to nap, play cards or whatever, until the evening rush hour brought more customers.

These guys are part of a growing industry of bike repair stands along Bogotá's bikeways.

Give them credit for inventing something which is just as dry as North Face, and lots cheaper and quicker to assemble.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

jueves, 1 de junio de 2017

Petro for President? A Cycle Policy Perspective.

For years, Plaza San Victorino has hosted this bike rack, which sometimes contains one or two bikes.
Gustavo Petro, a one-time M-19 guerrilla leader, was Bogotá mayor from 2012 to '15, and now wants to be elected president.

From a cyclists perspective, his record is mixed.

Take a look at Plaza San Victorino, which for years had a small bike rack which sometimes held one or two bicycles.

What was wrong with that? A lot, according to someone connected to the Petro administration, who decided that the plaza needed dozens and dozens more bike parking spots.

These Petro bike racks on Plaza San Victorino actually found users.

But this one didn't.

Finally, a bike in this rack.
Another rack, around the corner, provides seating for tired street vendors. 
I guess you get the point. Petro's government issued a contract to install bike racks, but didn't care or didn't bother to check where they actually installed them. So, naturally, the contractor installed them where it was easiest and cheapest, not where they were useful.

Along the same lines, Petro's administration also issued a contract to create a public bicycle system - to a man who had no experience with bicycles and did have a history of corruption accusations, in a consortium with a Chinese company with not apparent experience with bicycles.

The contract was annulled by Mayor Peñalosa, and Bogotá still has no public bikes.

On the other hand, under Petro the city did build some useful bike lanes, called ciclorutas.

A Petro-era cicloruta along El Parkway in Teusaquillo.
Petro also created a limited bike lending program, called Bicicorredores, which lent bikes in six locations in Bogotá. Unfortunately, bikes borrowed in one location could not be returned in another, limiting the program's usefulness for transport. Mayor Peñalosa ended the program, calling it too expensive. 

Public bikes lent out during the Petro administration, now parked for the long-term.
Overall, Petro did some things for cyclists, but many of his initiatives were poorly thought-out or apparently full of corruption. All of which makes one question his sincerity and dedication.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogota Bike Tours

domingo, 28 de mayo de 2017

Second's Not Bad!

Nairo Quintana, 2nd place, winner Tom Dumoulin, of Denmark and third place finisher Italian Vincenzo Nibali
In the end, Dutchman Tom Dumoulin showed why he's known as a great time trialer by beating Colombian Nairo Quintana by well over a minute in today's final stage and vaulting into first place in the Giro d'Italia.

Sure, Quintana might have ridden more aggressively in the mountain stages and possibly built up the more than a minute's lead going into today's time trial which he needed to hold off Dumoulin. But such risky, aggressive riding might also have lost it all for Quintana, keeping him off of the podium altogether. Yesterday, after all, the guys at the Telegraph newspaper's Cycling podcast speculated that other contenders could keep Quintana off of the podium altogether.

As it is, Quintana now adds a second place finish to his 2014 victory in the Giro, his victory in the
Añadir leyenda
Vuelta a España and second and third-place finishes in the Tour de France, as well as victories in many lesser races. That makes Quintana one of the great riders of his generation and one of the greatest-ever Colombian bike racers. He is only the second-ever Colombian after the legendary Luis Herrera to win one of the three Grand Tours (Spain, Italy and France).

And Quintana was not the only Colombian to excel in this year's Giro. Sprinter Alejandro Gaviria won four stages and was the overall points leader.

Quintana is the leader of a generation of young Colombian cyclists who are making their homeland one of the world's great cycling nations.

The Giro d'Italia's Final Classification.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

sábado, 27 de mayo de 2017

Hang On There Nairo!

Today's El Espectador newspaper celebrates Nairo's lead.
Colombian Nairo Quintana is wearing pink, but has a fight ahead of him to keep it on. Quintana fouoght and won the pink in Italy's mountains, his specialty, and has a 38 second lead over Dutchman Tom Dumoulin.

Nairo exults in wearing pink.
Now, the Giro de Italia has one stage left, but it is a time trial - Dumoulin's specialty. Dumoulin has to gain just over a second per kilometer tomorrow to beat Quintana, and presumably the rest of the contenders. Frenchman Thibaut Pinot, at 53 seconds back, and Russian Ilnur Zakarin, 1 minute 21 seconds back, are also threats to Quintana's chances for a podium spot, according to the Telegraph newspaper's bike racing podcast.

Blog by Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

lunes, 22 de mayo de 2017

A Star is Born

Fernando Gaviria winning a stage in the 2015 Tour de San Luis.
(Photo: Cycling News)
This was supposed to be Nairo Quintana's Giro de Italia - and it still may be. Winner of the 2014 Giro, Quintana and last year's winner Vicenzo Nibali were this year's favorites. And Quintana may yet win, but he needs to make up close to three minutes against race leader Dutchman Tom Dumoulin, an expert at time trials. With four mountain stages remaining, Quintana might do it. On Sunday, he shaved nine seconds off of Dumoulin's lead. (On Tuesday, he made up most of that time against an ill Dumoulin. However, the last stage is a time trial.)

But the Colombian who has already earned himself a memorable place in this year's Giro is sprinter Fernando Gaviria, a 22-year-old from Antioquia riding with Quick-Step who has already raced to victory in four stages of this year's Giro, a record for a Colombian.

Along the way, he also became a web sensation by riding a wheelie during the Giro's stage 15.

Gaviria first won prominence in the 2015 Tour de San Luis, and went on for more wins in the Tour of Britain, Tour la Provence and the Track Cycling World Championships, among other competitions.

But for Gaviria, like Quintana, the best is likely yet to come.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

viernes, 19 de mayo de 2017


Come Ride With Us. (Why do they put these things in English?)
Outside the Espacio Odeon gallery on Jimenez Ave.
ARTBO, Bogotá's annual art festival, has added bicycle transport this year - and they're actually doing it right, albeit on a small scale. (See a few of ARTBO's works here.)

Pedaling up Jimenez Ave.
The festival, using city-owned bikes and employees of the Spinning Center gyms, has set up six lending sites, each initially with eight bikes. The idea is for art fans to pedal from one exhibition to the next, altho once you pedal out of sight they have no way to know whether you're off to more art or to your lunch date. The service is free, but you must show I.D. and have signed up on ARTBO's website.

The blue bicycles were
borrowed from the city.
By allowing riders to pick up bikes at one spot and drop them off at another, this private initiative already puts itself ahead of the city's very limited, but still missed, bicicorredor lending program. The city required you to drop the bike off near where you'd picked it up, which wasn't very practical for transportation, and the program was ended last year.

The city's much-promised full-scale bike lending program has not gotten off of the drawing board.

Preparing a bike for lending. 
On the Jimenez Ave. lending site outside the Espacio Odeon gallery this afternoon, the employees said they'd lent about six bikes. Not so many, but that's still six more rides than without the program. (On Saturday they appeared to be much busier.)

However, absurdly, you also need to have signed up on the website in order to park a bike. One of the employees agreed this was counterproductive. "A lot of people have asked to park their bikes, and would have visited the gallery," he said.

So much for making rules for the sake of making rules.
Free bicycle parking, too.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

viernes, 5 de mayo de 2017

Tough Times for the Cycling Federation

Nairo Quintana, champion and cycling federation critic.
Lack of support for cyclists, poor preparation for competitions, measly prize money and opaque finances.

The 89-year-old Colombian Federation of Cycling is passing through troubled times, if you believe its critics.

The most prominent of those critics is Nairo Quintana, winner of the tours of Spain and Italy.

The league “doesn't send all the athletes (that it could to races), doesn't provide financial support, doesn't publicize its accounts and doesn't provide support," to riders, Quintana said.

Recently, in fact, the Vuelta a Tolima was canceled because the federation had not
BMX champion Mariana Pajón defends the federation.
obtained the necessary permits. And, in another race, riders had to pedal through mud and evade potholes. 

In additional, critics call the federation's anti-doping efforts weak. Two months ago, Coldeportes' anti-doping laboratory was shut down because it did not meet international standards.

Many also called the planned prize money for women in the canceled Tolima tour inadequate: Only 70,000 pesos, or about US $25, for stage winners and 600,000 pesos, or $210, for the tour winner.

Paradoxically, the federation charges cyclists 680,000 pesos for racing licenses, reportedly one of the highest rates in the world, and wealthy corporate sponsors.

Quintana had also opposed the election in January of Jorge Ovidio González, a veteran cycling official, as federation president. Some alleged that González bought votes with favors and are attempting to annul the election.

But Colombian BMX champion Mariana Pajón, winner of two Olympic gold medals, criticized Quintana in an audio message which she sent to her father but was leaked to the media.

"It makes me sad, because a person such as Nairo should be careful of what he says," she said, and suggested that Quintana was bitter because his candidate for federation president was defeated. Pajón's father is a federation official.

Pajón acknowledged that there were problems, but said that the federation could not support all racers.

Federation president González also said that Quintana was misinformed about subjects such as racers' health insurance.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

viernes, 28 de abril de 2017

The Importance of Pruning

Can you see the lane below those branches?
 The bike lane on Calle 39 created last year was a useful addition for Bogotá cyclists, asi it connects the 11th-Street bike lane (and the Parque Nacional) to Teusaquillo and the Parkway. (That it is one of the few bike lanes which take space from cars instead of pedestrians is another positive.)

Since then, however, the lane has been neglected. On its first segment, to Caracas Avenue, the median strip's trees have extended their branches across the lane, and into cyclilsts' faces - a situation which would never be tolerated in a lane for cars.

This bicyclist didn't even use the new lane.
Now it's safe to return to the lane.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

jueves, 27 de abril de 2017

The Milas' Mobile Bicycle Workshop

The Mila brothers don't limit themselves to two-wheeled vehicles.
Still hard at work after dark.
Last year, Jason Mila, 29, was one more young Colombian without employment. A resident of the poor Dorado hillside neighborhood, his poor public school school education didn't qualify him for much.

But Jason owned a street vendors' cart, and knew how to repair bikes. Today, he and his brothers, all of whom have experience with bicycles, including working for Bogotá Bike Tours, are operating a successful mobile bike repair cart along the pedestrianized stretch of Carrera Septima.
Bicycle rush hour on Carrera Septima.

Theirs is a long workday - often stretching from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. to catch the rush hours - but it makes them part of Bogotá's expanding bicycle economy, which has seen a proliferation of such temporary, mobile workshops in recent years. And they also do house calls. (Call them at 321-995-9261.)

Repair stands such as Jason's occupy a legal grey area. Despite the valuable service they perform for clean transit, and the employment they generate for low-skilled people, the stands generally lack business licenses and occupy public space. Fortunately, the police don't appear to be cracking down on them. Jason believes he knows why - his clients include bicycle-riding cops.

Update: But recently city rule-enforcers have been hassling the brothers, forcing them to be truly mobile, as they scurry from spot to spot.

'You guys gotta move!' City employees with Bogota Mejor, (Better Bogotá) tell the brothers that they have to remove themselves from Carrera Septima. Repairing bikes is an obvious threat to social wellbeing.

The Milas' sign, pointing to their workshop, now located off of Carrera Septima. The Better Bogotá people have saved the avenue from the threat of bicycle repairs!

Not only tools in this cart.
A bike repair stand beside the Universidad Pedagogica...

...and another in the Centro Internacional.
By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours