Monday, November 14, 2011

Victory of the Bicycle!

Everybody loses this race: Cars block each other, TM buses and even a cyclist. 
For the second year in a row, bicycle commuters won an overwhelming victory in the University of the Andes commuters race, which pits cyclists against private car drivers, Transmilenio riders and riders of regular private buses.

The commuters started off from three different spots around Bogota and traveled to Los Andes' campus in La Candelaria. The cyclists finished first on all three routes, averaging 21.5 kilometers per hour - leaving them time to sip coffee and read the newspaper before the car drivers arrived, having averaged only 15.5 KPH, barely ahead of the TransMilenios at 15.3 KPH. The regular bus averaged only 13.4 KPH.

Going nowhere: Cars sit still by a TM line
which is supposed to open in early 2012. 
The results, of course, don't figure in cycling's other benefits, including decreased pollution, more exercise and reduced traffic congestion - benefits shared in lesser degrees by forms of mass transit. The private car, which clogs streets and fills the air with fumes, is of course the villain of this story.

The results, are of course, a huge condemnation of Bogotá's terrible traffic jams and a commentary on the insanity of crowding the city's streets with big polluting machines which often carry only one or two people. The situation will only get worse as more cars flood into the city.

Trying on BiciBog for size. (Photo: El Tiempo)
The bicycles' victory comes at a time when both Bogotá and Medellin are carrying out pilot public bicycle projects. Bogota's project, named BiciBog, has been criticized by some transit experts. They say the bikes could be better designed and more durable, and that the stations could be better located. unfortunately, too, it's not clear where some of the planning money went.

Yet, the fact is, that commuters are using the bikes and appear to like them. Hopefully, Bogota and Medellin will both set up public bicycle programs. But for them to really succeed, they'll need to work on several fundamental problems, including reducing Bogotá's pollution and reducing its traffic chaos, both of which frighten non-cyclists from venturing out on two wheels.

Cycling central bogota at night. 
By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

1 comment:

Chris said...

Riding in the city is so much faster than driving, or even taking a bus. I have a folding bike, so it's actually really easy for me to just put my bike in someone's trunk and get a ride if I wanted to, but the thing is, I'd almost always rather ride!