Sunday, December 29, 2013

Bicycle + Motor = ?Bicycle?

A bicimotor roars down Ave. Jimenez, the Eje Ambiental, in downtown Bogotá.
No pedaling needed:
A motorized bicycle on Ave. Septima's bike lane.
Take a bicycle, add a gasoline motor, and you get - a bicycle? Well, no. A bicycle with a motor is, by definition, a motorcycle.

But the owners of such 'bicimotores,' which are proliferating in Bogotá, are convinced that their cheap, mini motorcycles are, actually, just bicycles.

Motorized bicycles may provide cheap transportation, but they also generate problems for real cyclists. Bicimotores are noisy, can belch out more pollution than a car, and roar along at speeds close to conventional motorcycles.

A bicyclist using a bike lane as a refuge from car traffic, or - even worse - a pedestrian walking along a sidewalk, shouldn't be subjected to one of these machines.

What doesn't fit here? A motorized bicycle
in a Bogotá bike shop.
But, because they have motors smaller than 50 cubic centimeters, the bicimotores occupy a legal vacuum in which they are subject to no motor vehicle laws. As a result, a bicimotor, which has no noise or emissions controls and whose user doesn't need a driver's license, exemplifies the worst aspects of a motor vehicle. And, yet, those bicimotor users seem to believe that they enjoy all the privileges of silent, non-polluting, human-powered vehicles.

I've encountered bicimotores on Bogotá's Ciclorutas and even La Ciclovia, where they contradict La Ciclovia's of promoting health and physical activity.

Bicimotores may have a legitimate role as cheap transportation. But, as motorized vehicles, they should be subject to motor vehicle laws, as well. And, they should stay out of bicycle-only areas.

Fortunately, an attorney with Bogotá's legal office recently issued an opinion reaching the common sense conclusion that bicimotores are not bicycles and therefore may not use the city's bike lanes, (and, presumably, not La Ciclovia either).

But those of us living in Bogotá know there's a huge gulf between what laws say and what really happens. Will the police do their job here?
A legal opinion from Bogotá's legal office concludes that motorized cycles may not use bike lanes. 
By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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