Bogota, Colombia is the darling of transportation in Latin American – planners give it a group abrazo along with Portland in the U.S. With good reason: the city underwent a remarkable transformation, much of it due to transit investments and a change in the culture of how streets can be used as public spaces.
As a city biker, I’m a little envious of Bogota’s Ciclovia program. Every Sunday 70 miles of streets are closed to cars for cyclists and recreational users (of course the idea also caught on in Portland. Maybe they can export craft beer to Bogota in exchange?). New York has an admirable but comparably teeny version, but credit really goes to Colombian cities – they’ve been doing it since the 1980’s, and now about two million of Bogota’s residents take to the streets on two wheels or less on the weekends. Check out Ciclovia in action:
And that doesn’t even count the 186 miles of ciclorutas (bike lanes) in the city.
In New York the tension of rethinking the form and role of streets is palpable – streets are public, public space is scarce, so naturally there’s competition for the use of it that can get rather nasty. Right now with a Department of Transportation that’s installing hundreds of miles of bike lanes, the “bicycle backlash” is growing too. I’m curious about the process in Bogota and how it was perceived by residents at the time. Was there also a backlash by drivers, claiming streets should remain their domain? Were there similar economic arguments that changing streetscapes is bad for business? Was there a political fight to close down streets for recreation and promote cycling as a means of transportation?
For answers to some of these questions (and more), come to the screening and discussion of Bogota Change tomorrow – details here.
Thanks to Streetfilms for the video.