Every Sunday the city of Bogota stops cars from entering the city and they let the streets be used by everyone. Once cars are out of the equation it’s amazing what communities can do to make life more enjoyable and help their culture thrive. National Geographic took a look into how Bogota’s famous Ciclovía grew from an idea to an event copied around the world.
“One gets bored just going from home to work and back again,” said Martha Cubillos, a pleasant general services employee for the city who said she had biked with her husband to the Ciclovía from the far outskirts of town. She could stand to lose a little weight, according to her doctor, “so I come here every eight days and they teach us how to do aerobics.” Was the Ciclovía one of the things she liked best about Bogotá? Oh, definitely. She took a swig of water and jumped back into the sweaty throng. Ciclovía’s director, Sarmiento, said that in a highly stratified society like Colombia’s one of the things she loves about the program is its egalitarian nature. “No one cares about the clothes you’re wearing or what social class you’re from: everyone is welcome, and everyone is equal,” she’d said. The line-up of bikes leaning next to each other alongside the Zumba class—some rusted and wobbly, some with comfortably upholstered seats—supported that statement.
Regular readers of this site already know that in urban settings using a bicycle is the best way to get around. Thanks to an on-demand food delivery company there is now more evidence that bicycles are the fastest mode of transportation. The company knows this because their delivery algorithm takes into consideration how the food is being delivered to get the estimated delivery time for clients.
Smartphone data from riders and drivers schlepping meals for restaurant-to-home courier service Deliveroo shows that bicycles are faster than cars. In towns and cities, bicyclists are also often faster than motorized two-wheelers. Deliveroo works with 30,000 riders and drivers in 13 countries.
That bicyclists are faster in cities will come as no surprise to bicycle advocates who have staged so-called “commuter races” for many years. However, these races – organized to highlight the swiftness of urban cycling – are usually staged in locations and at hours skewed towards bicycle riders. The Deliveroo stats are significant because they have been extracted from millions of actual journeys.
In North America riding a bicycle in the cities built for cars can be stressful. Because these cities are designed for cars it’s hard to get anywhere quickly and New York witnessed this first hand. Instead of adding more vehicle lanes and continuing the problem they decided to remove parking and add bike lanes. As a result they saw fewer crashes on their streets while increasing economic activity. Plus, in New York the bike lanes allowed car traffic to floe better because the streets also permitted safer turning.
Here’s the description of the video above:
When Janette Sadik-Khan was hired as chief transportation official for New York City in 2007, she took a page out of Denmark’s playbook and created America’s first parking-protected bike lane, right in the middle of downtown Manhattan.
A parking protected bike lane created a buffer between the traffic of cars, trucks and buses and cyclists. But it also eliminated parking spots.
The protected lanes didn’t just make the streets safer for those on bikes; they also improved traffic flow for vehicles and spurred increased retail sales for businesses nearby.
Cities where people cycle regularly are happier than cities in which cycling is rare. The evidence continues to mount that building good cycling infrastructure will improve the life of everybody in a city – regardless if they ride or not. Urban planners already know that designing cities for pedestrians and cyclists make for better environments and now the on the ground happiness can be traced to it too. Get out there and ride a bike or ask your local politicians to make riding safer.
In Bogotá in 2017, for the first time, there were more survey respondents using bicycles than cars – 9 percent vs. 8 percent – with a satisfaction rate of 85 percent for bicycles against 75 percent for private vehicles. Only 19 percent users of the city’s bus rapid transit system, TransMilenio, reported being satisfied with its service.
The data from Colombia is consistent with international evidence.
Similarly, a survey of 1,000 people in London showed that 91 percent of the respondents bicycling to work found it satisfactory, while only 74 percent of bus commuters and 73 percent of Underground users were satisfied with their daily travel experience.
In the Global Happiness Report 2017, countries with high bicycle use tend to among the happiest overall, like the Netherlands (ranked sixth; daily bike use: 43 percent), Denmark (ranked third; daily bike user: 30 percent) and Finland (ranked first; daily bike use: 28 percent).
“It’s colder here than anywhere else” is a popular myth that Canadians tell themselves which then leads to Canadians thinking that solutions used in the rest of the world won’t work in the country. This is not a good thing. The good thing is that Canadians are tepidly looking to other northern countries to see how common problems are solved. Copenhagen has similar weather to many cities in Canada and has alleviated traffic through good bicycle infrastructure. What’s most important is that Copenhagen supports their bicycles year-round unlike most Canadian cities.
And it pays off: According to one economic analysis, every kilometre driven in a car costs society 89 cents; by contrast, every kilometre driven on a bike saves 26 cents.
Most streets in the capital have four distinct lanes – a sidewalk, a cycling track, parking and a driving lane. The city notes that every time it adds a bike lane, cycling traffic increases by 20 per cent to 50 per cent along that route.
In fact, commuting time has fallen because the city built a network of “cycle super highways” from the suburbs and adopted a “green wave” policy, whereby traffic lights for bikes are synchronized for bikes travelling at 20 kilometres an hour and, if you maintain that speed, you rarely stop.
Canadians often dismiss cycling as impractical because of the weather. Copenhagen is certainly more temperate than Toronto (or Edmonton) but, when it does snow, bike lanes are cleared first. Copenhagen also gets a lot of rain – 177 days a year – but people dress for it.