Have you wondered why some cities have large numbers of people cycling and others don’t?
Is it the climate? Something in the local psyche? Or simply chance?
I don’t think so. I think it is mostly about design. Bogota, the capital of Colombia, gives a nice example of a city that tried to design for bicycles and bicyclists.
Can we learn from Bogota’s experience?
From Cars to People, Buses and Bicycles
“A citizen on a $30 bicycle is equally important to one in a $30,000 car”, declares Enrique Penalosa, former mayor of Bogota.
When Mr. Penalosa became mayor in 1998, plans for a new $15 billion highway system were given to him. He discarded them and spent money on pedestrianised streets, buses and parks. And lots and lots and lots of cycle paths – 300 km worth – which people started to use.
Here are 3 steps they took that I think helped them build a bicycling culture:
Bicycling in Bogota – 3 steps to success
1. Build Bicycle Paths
A great bicycle path network makes it easy and safe for anyone to use, young or old. Cycle paths can come in all shapes and sizes – what kind is best? I guess it depends, but I like this useful guide from Enrique Penalosa, “A bicycle way that is not safe for an 8-year old is not a bicycle way”.
Below’s an example of one of Bogota’s cycle paths. What do you think of it?
2. Build other Bicycling Infrastructure
It’s not just about kilometers and miles of cycle roads. Who will use them? How will they be used? Can they be used?
A cycle path that goes from nowhere to nowhere probably won’t be used as much as a well connected, integrated system.
In Bogota, a special emphasis was put on connecting the cycle paths to their bus rapid transit system, Transmilenio. For example they installed free, convenient and secure cycle storage facilities near major bus terminals:
I like that the storage facilities make cycling easy for everyday activities, like taking quick public transport into the city.
3. Inspire – Make it Fun!
Ciclovia happens once a week in Bogota, every Sunday between 7am and 2pm. 120km of roads are shut to cars and opened up to cyclists, walkers and people to enjoy. It’s fun, with around 30% of locals, or 2 million people, taking part. Take a look at this short video from Streetfilms to if you want a flavour of people enjoying themselves on the streets of Bogota:
Maybe Ciclovia isn’t for every city, but are there other ways to make cycling fun in your city?
What do you think of the 3 steps to cycling success? Have you any other ideas?