viernes, 1 de diciembre de 2017

Mountain Biking Around Bogotá

Grab your bike and go pedal up and down the hills surrounding Bogotá!

That's the message, anyway, from Bogotá's District Tourism Institute this week with the launching of a new website showing regional mountain biking routes.

Technical information for riding from Bogotá to
the Tequendama Falls and then Sibate.
Take, for example, the relatively easy 20 km ride from Bogotá up to Patios and then down to the San Rafael Reservoir, which involves a 500 meter climb. Or the more demanding and desolate ride up to Sumapaz, which will take you close to 4,000 meters above sea level, through beautiful high-altitude wetlands, called paramos.

The web site is straightforward to use and contains lots of practical information, like altitudes, elevation gains and, most importantly, maps, which are downloadable. It even has an English version, altho the language could be improved.

On the other hand, it would be nice if the accompanying photographs actually included bicyclists, but that's a quibble, and hopefully will change. At a meeting the other day, Bogotá tourism officials said that the website is a work in progress.

It would also be nice if the routes included less generic warnings, since crime is a real concern in
Mountain biking in Cundinamarca.
(Photo: Government of Cundinamarca)
many areas. Working with police to get escorts, or at least an emergency number to call in case of need might be good ideas. They might also add some environmental concerns, since mountain biking can cause erosion, disturb animal habitats, and generate other impacts.

Unfortunately, many people need to be reminded not to litter. And, what about campfires? Camping?

There is of course tremendous mountain biking waiting to be discovered in the regions around Bogotá. Getting more Colombians out there will require cultural shifts, since mountain biking is not traditionally a major sport here. And growth of the middle class, since mountain biking is not a poor-person's activity.

A bleak high-altitude landscape near Sibate.
Officials of the administration of Mayor Peñalosa keep promising to convert Bogotá into 'The World Capital of Bicycling.' That's a great goal, and this website is supposed to be part of it. But Bogotá has a long, long way to go, beginning with creating a public bicycle program, controlling air pollution and imposing order on its chaotic traffic.

Promoting mountain biking, unfortunately, might not bring the city closer to that goal, since the riding is done outside of town and the bikers often get there by car with the bicycles mounted on the roof. Rather, Bogotá will need to promote practical cycle commuting, by making it safer and more pleasant and convenient. That means safe, accesible bike lanes, bike parking, and car drivers who understand that cyclists and pedestrians have a right to be on the road.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours, which offers rides outside of Bogotá.