lunes, 14 de abril de 2014

The Sad Face of Bogotá Cycling

A father-daughter outing - with anti-toxic face masks.
This cycling father and daughter pair struck me as tremendously sad, outfitted as they were with their anti-pollution face masks for a Saturday afternoon outing in central Bogotá. They looked more appropriate for a visit to a toxic dump or the scene of an industrial disaster. 

But, come to think of it, Bogotá may be the scene of a chronic and perpetual industrial disaster. 

Buses belching smoke near the intersection where I saw the masked father and daughter. 

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

viernes, 14 de marzo de 2014

Crusading for Las Ciclorutas

Cycling activists in front of Bogotá's Movilidad, or Transit Department.
Way back around the year 2000, Bogotá's ciclorutas, or bike lanes, were a pioneering initiative. But more than a decade, several mayors and years of neglect later, some ciclorutas seem more like monuments to urban mismanagement.

Today, a group of bike advocates and an official from the city's Movilidad, or Transit Department, rode some of the city's bike lanes to see the problems first-hand. They found blocked and invaded bike lanes, troubles with signage and difficult street crossings, among other things.

Andrés Vergara and other cyclists in an impromptu meeting with Transit Department officials (the two women in dark shirts) in the agency's parking lot. 
Transit Department officials expressed support for improving and expanding the city's bike lanes, but said their department has to seek the funds in other government agencies. They also promised to join a ride along some bike lanes to see the problems.

Do as I say, not as I do: The transit department is supposed to promote cycling and mass transit. And one of the officials had in fact brought her bike to work today - in the back of her SUV. She said she didn't like driving. "If I didn't have an assigned driver, I'd probably come to work in public transit," she said.
Really? I'll wait and see.But, as people personally immersed in car culture, one wonders how deep their commitment is. 

Bogotá's ciclorutas have been troubled from the start. Many are built on sidewalks, forcing cyclists to dodge pedestrians, vendors and delivery vehicles. And where the lanes are on streets, cyclists are obliged to swallow exhaust from Bogotá's highly-polluting vehicles.
A father and daughter ride the cicloruta along Calle 13. 
A sidewalk-level crossing for cyclists on Calle 13, which doesn't require bicyclists to descend and ride up again. However, the crossing has other obstacles. 
Pedal up! Where street crossings aren't raised to sidewalk level, cyclists have to repeatedly descend and then ride up again. Often, the curb accesses are not smooth.

One would think that along a bike lane cyclists would get priority...But this pick-up truck driver didn't think twice before cutting of a cyclist.
A truck waiting to turn stops on top of a crosswalk. Car drivers always assume they have priority, even when they're in pedestrians' , or cyclists', space.
A difficult crossing. 
A bicyclist manuevers around a cellular phone sales tent set up on Calle 13's bike lane. This tent has been here for weeks, with no apparent trouble from transit authorities. Would they have it so easy if they blocked cars?
A cellular phone sales tent set up in the Calle 13 bike lane blocks a wheelchair user. 
Another hazard along bike lanes: Air pollution, like this smokestack, which happened to be located next door to the Health Secretariat. 
While I was photographing the stationary chimney, this 'rolling chimney,' also known as a 'truck', passed by.
Many of Bogotá's ciclorutas, like this one on Calle 13, are located along the city's most polluted streets, making one ask whether or not bicycling in Bogotá is healthy. 
This sidewalk does contain a bike lane, if you could only see it amidst the potholes and obstacles. 
Lots of signs, but not so much space on this bike lane near San Victorino Plaza.
A somewhat worn sign along Calle 13's bike lane. 
At Caracas Ave., Calle 13's bike lane simply ends, with no continuation. 
And Caracas Ave. has no bike lane. 
Near San Victorino Plaza, this vendor found this bike lane a convenient spot for a food stand.
Wonder why? This bicyclist preferred to ride on the street instead of this sidewalk bike lane. 
The Transit Department's parking lot. The bicycle's area is hidden in the corner, between the motorcycles and the double-parked cars. We discovered an electric scooter in the bicycle rack. The security guard insisted the scooter was a bicycle.
The Transit Department's parking lot has an area for bicycles, squeezed in between the cars and motorcycles. Like nearly all workplaces, this one provides free parking for cars, subsidizing the most inefficient form of transit.
By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

jueves, 6 de marzo de 2014

Cyclist Suffers Toxic Attack!

A bicyclist gets smoke bombed by a bus on 26th Street. 
The other day, these bicyclists were pedaling along 26th St. when this bus belched this toxic cloud over one of them.

And some people ask why more Bogotanos don't ride bikes.

Other people ask why authorities don't sanction polluters. But why ask absurd questions?

Blog by Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

jueves, 27 de febrero de 2014

The Cops Are Back on Bikes

On the beat. Young cops pedaling in Chapinero.
About six years ago, Bogotá had cops on bicycles. Bicycling cops are a good thing for several reasons: They're versatile and can go places cops in cars and even on motorcycles can't, and much faster than on foot. Cycling police are also more approachable for the community. (And don't get me started on those expensive, useless, Segways.) And the bikes are inexpensive and make those cops exercise. Finally, you can't sleep the afternoon away on a bicycle the way you can in a car.

Most importantly for us cyclists, having cops on bikes has got to motivate internal combustion vehicles to give two wheelers more respect and room on the street.

Not so fast. An afternoon conference
near the Banco de la Republica.
Yet, for reasons I can't divine, around 2009 the police scrapped their bikes (some of which were purchased by Bogotá Bike Tours).

Recently, however, two-wheeled Bogotá police have reappeared. (At least, the teenage 'auxiliar' police, anyway, who are getting their 'obligatory' military service requirement out of the way.)

On Ave. Septima, where the bike cops seem to spend most of their time...despite the surfeit of security here.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

domingo, 23 de febrero de 2014

A Cycling Czar for Bogotá?

London and New York City have them. And so do Madison, Wisconsin; Thousand Oaks, California; San Diego, California and many other cities - but not Bogotá, despite its reputation as an urban bicycling pioneer.

The good: Bicyclists on the Sunday Ciclovia. A few
years ago a senator tried to cut back La Ciclovia's hours.
But may come soon. At a meeting Friday evening in the Bogotá City Council building, councilman Roberto Saenz proposed the idea of creating a city 'bicycle office.'

But, what such an office would be called or do, and what authority it would have, aren't clear.

Several attendees at the event urged that the office not be 'just about infrastructure,' which is a good point. Also, that it be made to last, rather than just for this mayoralty, whose weeks may be numbered.

Jesús David Acero, bike coordinator for the
Institute of Urban Development (IDU) makes a point. 
For the sake of cyclists, the mission of such an office should be defined early - and in our favor. After all, a 'bicycle office' could be about, instead of promoting cycling, sanctioning cyclists. Or counting them. Or restricting and regulating them 'for their own good.'

Would this office possess its own real authority or only be a conduit which would have to go, hat in hand, appealing to other city offices for resources and support?

But, as long as it stays positive, a bicycle office could be a good thing just by existing, since it would provide bikes and cyclists with attention and importance.

The bad: Bike lane needed on Carrera 10, in the city center.
Meeting attendees also discussed the problem of bicycle theft. If the Dutch haven't eliminated bike theft, I don't expect Bogotá to, either. However, there are basic measures the police could take - but, infuriatingly, don't - to reduce the impunity, at least a bit. One would be to control or shut down the shops, in areas such as the Santa Fe neighborhood, which everybody knows deal in stolen bikes. Another would be to equip a nice bike with a hidden GPS tracker, let it get stolen, and then follow it to the place where gangs steal or fence their goods.

City Councilman Roberto Saenz,
with an assistant on his right.

By Mike Ceaser, de Bogotá Bike Tours

domingo, 16 de febrero de 2014

Bikes and Buses - Can They Cohabit?

Good neighbors? A bicyclist squeezes past a bus on Carrera 10.
Bogotá transit planners' latest scheme to reorganize Bogotá's transit is to create exclusive lanes shared by buses and bicycles. It's actually a good idea in principle - particularly for the bus riders, who could be freed from the traffic jams generated by all those single-passengers cars.

Ave. Jimenez in La Candelaria is reserved for
buses, and many cyclists use the corridor.
But can bicyclists and buses co-exist? Would bus drivers respect cyclists? Would cyclists exasperate bus drivers by darting in front of them? Would bicyclists get blasted by buses' exhaust?

Most importantly of all, tho, would the plan work at all? I doubt it. Unless the city invests in TransMilenio-type concrete barriers separating these new bus lanes from the rest of the traffic, will car drivers respect them? Unfortunately, I doubt it.

Pedaling up Ave. Jimenez
with a bus behind.
This sounds like yet another fantasy plan from the Petro administration, which seems convinced that human nature is so benevolent and unselfish that a few billboards and pamphlets handed out in the street are all it takes to reform human nature.

On the other hand, in the one place where buses and bikes share an avenue free of cars - on Ave. Jimenez in La Candelaria, it works pretty well and is used by many cyclists.

Bogotá does need new ideas for bike lanes.

Build safe bike lanes and cyclists will come: A father and
son pedal along the new bike lane thru
the Centro Intrernacional. 
Many of the city's existing bike lanes are on sidewalks, forcing cyclists to dodge pedestrians, forklifts and delivery vehicles. Cars park on the lanes and businesses use them to store and display products.

But, where they feel safe and have their own space, cyclists will come, as the car-free stretch of Ave. Septima has demonstrated. Bogotá needs to invest in real, protected and continuous corridors for cyclists. That won't be easy, but it's a necessary step for promoting cycling here.

Many of Bogotá's existing bike lanes, like this one along Calle 13, are on sidewalks, forcing cyclists to compete with pedestrians. 
On the street, cyclists must prepare to swallow buses' diesel.
Make space for cyclists? A bicyclist amongst cars on Ave. Caracas.
Bicyclists navigate amidst traffic on Ave. Septima, which badly needs a bike lane. 

A tight squeeze: A bicyclist crosses an overpass amidst traffic.

Sharing space with buses means breathing their exhaust.

A mcyclist on a bike lane near the Universidad Nacional.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

domingo, 9 de febrero de 2014

The Liberal Party: Promoting Bicycling or Driving?

Liberal party campaigners out pedaling.
Last Thursday, Bogotá's 14th-annual Car-Free Day, Liberal Party campaigners turned out on bicycles. They even rented bikes from Bogotá Bike Tours. Hopefully, this was more than just P.R., and the Liberales really support clean, human-powered transportation.

However, the very next day, these Liberal Party campaigers (albeit for different candidates) marched down Ave. Septima wearing shirts demanding a "fair price" for gasoline. The shirts showed a customer being held up with a gasoline pump nozzle wielded like a pistol.

Cheaper gasoline promotes more driving, pollution, traffic congestion and sedentarism - all of which are bad for bicyclists, of course.

Liberal Party members beat the
drum for cheaper gasoline. 
Subsidizing gasoline is also a give-away primarily to the wealthier clases, who own big cars, while the poor walk, bike or take the bus. Money spent - or taxes lost - on gasoline also means less resources for schools, police and public hospitals.

Why are gasoline prices such a populist issue? Venezuela's 'revolutionary, socialist' presidents, who love to criticize the United States for consumerism and wastefulness, subsidize gasoline there to just a few cents per gallon. Why don't I ever see marchers demanding lower prices on bread, carrots, books or potatoes?

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours