domingo, 17 de agosto de 2014

A Novel Concept: Bicycle Parking

Parking a bike. By 6 p.m. about 500 bikes had arrived, and there was room for lots more.
3,000 pesos, please.
For the first time in memory, the city arranged bicycle parking at a major event - the annual, free Rock al Parque concert happening this weekend in Simon Bolivar Park. So, why is this not routine?
They created parking and bicyclists came. When I visited around 6 p.m. Sunday afternoon some 500 bikes had arrived, and more kept rolling in. Cyclists paid a 3,000 pesos fee (about U.S. $1.50) and received a numbered receipt. The cyclist got a paper slip carrying the same number. The bikes were locked with a cable - but owners also had to affix their own locks. No lock, no bike parking, the attendants told me. 
The system's complex, but perhaps practical. A few lost bikes and the whole system would likely be trashed.

Why didn't the city provide such parking - which encourages cycling and clean transit - as well as making the
city money - years ago? For that matter, why doesn't the city really require bike parking at important destinations, such as supermarkets and public offices and more than a few TransMilenio stations? (Rather, there seems to exist a paranoia about bikes. The other day, I locked my bike on a sidewalk beside a private university in La Candelaria. When I returned some 20 minutes later, several security guards were waiting, up in arms. What's the meaning of this? they asked. After all, my bike might be carrying a bomb. I pointed out that the cars I often see parked beside the school could contain much, much larger bombs.)

So, it's a good thing...but it could be better. In the first place, the fee of 3,000 pesos seems excessive, especially when the city wants to promote cycling. The adjoining car parking lot charges flat fees of 7,500 pesos for cars and 5,000 for motorcycles (it doesn't accept bikes). Considering the tiny space a bicycle occupies, besides cycling's benefits, makes the bike fee seem disproportionate.

Room for thousands more bikes.
The 3,000 pesos is about the cost of two bus rides. If the city wants to shift Bogotanos to clean, healthy transport, it should give people an economic incentive to pedal. But thanks to Bogotá's neoliberal mindset - even with an ex-guerrilla in command - even programs benefiting health and the environment are supposed to generate profits (even while cars often receive free parking and subsidized fuels).

For that matter, why doesn't the park's car parking lot have a bike rack - as required by law?

And more bikes kept on arriving.
'Come to Rock al Parque by bike.'
I was also surprised by the highly processed, plastic-wrapped cakes that were given to cyclists. Why not give out instead apples or bananas or something else that's healthy?

The park's adjoining car parking lot doesn't accept bikes. 
'Don't bring your bike into the parking lot.'
The car parking lot's normal daily fee for cars is 1,000 pesos per hour. In comparison, the charge for bikes seems relatively high.
This avenue connecting the park to 26th Street badly needs a bike lane.
By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

lunes, 11 de agosto de 2014

Flipping and Flying for Cycling

This five-member French family bicycled from Bolivia to Colombia and have been earning a bit of money by performing acrobatics on Ave. Septima.

By Mike Ceaser of Bogota Bike Tours

jueves, 7 de agosto de 2014

Who's a Bike Lane For?

Last night, cars created - and trapped themselves - in this traffic jam in La Candelaria.

Happily for them, however, the nearby bicycle lane provided a convenient detour.

'Bikes only.'

 And why shouldn't they? After all, just about everybody, including motorcycles, delivery carts, street vendors, and, of course, pedestrians, use Bogotá's 'bike' lanes.

A bike lane's a convenient place to pull a cart.
Motorcycle cops love a bike lane.
A bike lane's a nice place for a walk....
...or to set up a vending cart.
By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

viernes, 18 de julio de 2014

Nairo's Great Absence

The great absence. Nairo Quintana. (Photo: Wikipedia)
2014 has been, by any measure, a banner year for Colombian bike racer Nairo Quintana. After all, he won the Tour de San Luis in Argentina and finished second, behind Alberto Contador, in the Tirreno-Adriatico in Italy. Then, Quintana, despite being sick, went on to win the Giro de Italia, one of cycling's three grand tours, as well as claiming the Giro's 'best young rider' award.

Nairo Quintana in the Tour of Britain.
(Photo: Wikipedia)
So, it seemed reasonable enough for Quintana to skip this year's Tour de France - despite finishing second last year - in order to rest up for the Vuelta a España, the third grand tour.

But early on in this year's Tour, the two favorites, Briton Chris Froome and Spaniard Alberto Contador crashed out, meaning that Quintana, if he were racing, would have a grand chance to win the grandest tour of all.

Of course Quintana, 24, should have many more opportunities to win the Tour de France. But in cycling, like all sports, anything could happen: a bad injury, the rise of another great champion, a personal crisis, which could eliminate his future chances.

That might leave Quintana looking back with regret to 2014, when the bicycle racing's greatest prize was almost there to be plucked.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

jueves, 5 de junio de 2014

Cycle Racing and the Armed Conflict

Cyclist Rigoberto Urán, whose
father was murdered by paramilitaries.
Colombian cyclist Rigoberto Urán's second-place finish on Sunday in the Giro d'Italia would have made headlines - if not for the fact that another Colombian, Nairo Quintana, finished first.

But Urán had to climb over more than hills to achieve cycling greatness. He also had to overcome illness, poverty and the tragedy of Colombia's armed conflict.

Born in 1987 in the municipality of Urrao, Antioquia province, Urán grew up poor, helping his father to collect milk from farms and sell lottery tickets. The young Urán suffered from asthma, and to cure this his father took him cycling thru the region's hills when the boy was 13. The exercise soon helped cure the asthma.

However, like much of Colombia, the Urrao region was roamed by violent bands of leftist guerrillas and right-wing paramilitaries. One day, the elder Urán - also named Rigoberto - went out on a training ride and encountered an illegal paramilitary checkpoint. Altho what happened next is apparently uncertain, the younger Urán says that the paramilitaries forced his father and other kidnappees to steal cattle for them - and then killed the men.

Fatherless, the 14-year-old Urán was forced to support his family by selling lottery tickets. Nevertheless, he continued training, and soon after was signed by the Orgullo Paisa racing team. Now, he supported his family with his cycling income.

Luis 'Lucho' Herrera 
By age 18 Urán was in Colombia's national team, and a year later Team Tenax had signed him and moved him to Spain. However, after Urán suffered a severe bicycling accident, the team sent him to live with a family in northern Italy to recover and train.

Other Colombian cyclists' scrapes with the conflict have fortunately not been so tragic. Luis 'Lucho' Herrera was a legendary climber who achieved immortality in 1987 by winning the Vuelta a España. He retired in 1992 to dedicate himself to his family.

However, in 2000 Herrera was kidnapped by guerrillas. The kidnapping lasted only one day however. According to one report I read, only after the kidnapping did the guerrillas discover who they were holding. They then asked their captive to recount his racing glories, and freed him after only 24 hours, apparently embarrassed about having kidnapped a national hero.

Also in 2000, fellow cyclist Oliverio Rincón was kidnapped twice, once together with his family, by the ELN and later by the FARC guerrillas. The first time, he was held for a week, and the second for only one day. After his second kidnapping, Rincón said that the guerrillas apologized to him.

The kidnappers "told me that I wasn't the person they were looking for, that it was a mistake and that they were very sorry about it," Rincon said.

Blog by Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

martes, 3 de junio de 2014

The Secrets of the Sudden Success of Colombian Cyclists

All smiles:Nairo Quintana celebrates victory in the Giro d'Italia.
the Giro d'Italia, which ended yesterday. was all Colombia. Boyacense Nairo Quintana finished first, Antioqueño Rigoberto Urán second and fellow Antioqueño Julián Arredondo took the King of the Mountain jersey. Perhaps we should have seen it all coming since last year, when Quintana finished second and won the best climber's jersey in the Tour de France and Urán took second in the Giro d'Italia.

Rigoberrto Urán pops open a frizzy one after winning
stage 12 of the Giro d'Italia.
These guys are only the best known of a crop of young riders. How has Colombia produced such a great crop of young riders? What's changed? Here are some ideas:

Colombia's economy has grown, enabling local businesses to sponsor young riders and help them onto the first rung of the ladder toward professional racing.

Colombia is safer - This has made Colombia's own tour, the Vuelta a Colombia, more attractive to foreign riders, giving Colombian cyclists both more high-lever racing experience and opportunity to be discovered by Eruopean racing teams.

World cycling authorities have cracked down on doping. According to this theory, Colombia's many
Julian Arredondo, the Giro d'Italia's best climber.
mountains and opportunities for high-altitude training give its riders a natural advantage - but that advantage was for many years nullified by the common use of drugs like EPO,and blood transfusions, which artificially boost red blood cell levels. In the post-Lance Armstrong era, doping seems to have dropped - or at least changed - perhaps restoring high-altitude trainers' natural advantages.

Whatever happens, Colombia's cycling boom has potential to last, and even grow. That's pretty good for a relatively small, relatively poor developing nation.

Even so, as others have observed, cycling still receives only a fraction of the attention of futbol. Hundreds of Colombian journalists are following the national football squad during its World Cup training, but only a few covered the Giro d'Italia - even tho Colombia's not likely to win the football World Cup. El Tiempo, the country's main newspaper, covered its front page Monday with a picture of Quintana kissing the Giro's trophy, and even dyed the paper pink (representing the winning rider's pink jersey). But by this afternoon, the paper's website had returned to World Cup coverage.

Results of the 2010 Giro d'Italia. The sole Colombian flag marks Rigoberto Urán, the seventh-ranked young rider.

What a difference five years make! The 2014 Giro d'Italia's winners lists have eight Colombian flags - altho three of them belong to Nairo Quintana.
By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

domingo, 1 de junio de 2014

Bike Polo in the Parque Nacional

These guys were playing a bike polo match this afternoon in the Parque Nacional. Nothing too novel in that - Bogotá's bike polo league has been going for a few years now. Most, but not all, of the players use fixies.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours