March 25 2014

Bike Lanes are Far From Over: Cycling the City in Colombia

As I’m writing this on a typical Colombian Sunday, the famous opinion magazine Semana published an article about the political rebirth of the former mayor of Bogotá, Enrique Peñalosa.

In this article the magazine exposes that it is not political ideology or interests that makes Peñalosa popular (and a strong contender of the coming presidential elections in May), but his capacity for executing plans that actually improve the quality of life for the people that elected him.

And it is exactly this ability for rapid execution that made the much-studied transformation of Colombia’s capital during the last years possible. This transformation was based primarily on the fierce defense of public transportation and a struggle to empower ownership of public spaces by citizens.

One of the policies developed in Bogotá was the creation of permanent bike paths, or “Ciclorrutas” as they are called in Spanish. Together with the conversion of some of the main avenues and highways of the city into leisure spaces on Sundays; a thought that was considered radical urban planning, even in progressive circles.

Cicloruta in Bogotá, Colombia

There are permanent bike paths like the one located near the Simon Bolivar park, installed around a library designed by Rogelio Salmona (which is also a major cultural center, bringing library, cinema, theater and open space together), other ones in the historic city center known as “La Candelaria” transform a main avenue into a promenade closed to cars and open for recreation.

Ciclovía in Bogotá's Historic Center, Colombia

The fact is the whole city embarked on the initiative more than a decade ago, and bike lanes are already part of Bogotá, a city in which there is nothing nicer than walking or cycling. In Bogotá while walking and cycling you can feel the cold air coming down from the mountains and enjoy a break from the crazy traffic congestion, sadly becoming an increasing problem once again.

Bike lanes, Colombia Bogota

There are already 400 kilometers of permanent bike paths built in Bogotá, and they have been used over the years by almost 100 million people. More and more, both in the capital and in other Colombian cities, people are adopting the pragmatic policy of saying “good-bye” to cars and “hello” to bicycles.

The question is then, how can we make biking a permanent trend? Can cities in America follow the path of places like Copenhagen? Can we have a thousand “Copenhagens” in Latin America?

Credits: Images by Luis Lozano-Paredes and linked to sources. Data linked to sources.

Luis Lozano-Paredes

Luis Lozano-Paredes is currently a student seeking a Diploma of Architecture and Urban Planning at Belgrano University in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Born in Colombia in 1987, he grew between the cities of Bogotá and Santiago de Cali, and then moved to Argentina in 2006. There, he finished the Common Basic Cycle of Architecture, Design, and Urbanism at the University of Buenos Aires before pursuing studies in Landscape Design at the same Institution. Inspired by the Urban Transformation of Bogotá in the past decades, his interests evolved from Landscape Architecture to his current passion; Urban Planning, Policy Making, and Sustainable Development. He plans to continue his studies in Urban Planning and Sustainability in Canada, Chile, or the U.S.; but for the moment he currently works as a Graduate Research Assistant at the Center of Metropolitan Transport Studies of the University of Buenos Aires and is a Member of the Observatory of Urban Sustainability at Belgrano University. Luis’ main interests lay within the study of Smart Cities, Urban Sustainable Development, and Social Architecture in Latin America.

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, March 25th, 2014 at 9:02 am and is filed under Social/Demographics, Transportation, Urban Planning and Design. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


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