Streets for folks and never simply vehicles

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Discovering inspiration from Bogota’s bike celebration

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Each Sunday the Colombian metropolis of Bogotá closes over 120 km of roads to vehicular site visitors. And instead of vehicles and site visitors jams, you’ll discover 1000’s of individuals on their bikes in addition to members who’re strolling, working and even curler blading.

Bogotá launched the idea of Ciclovía (Spanish for ‘cycleway’) in 1974, pushed by the need to advertise secure biking whereas encouraging residents to turn into extra energetic.

However as I just lately skilled firsthand, Ciclovía  “Bogotá style’ is so much more than just a bike ride… it’s a community celebration that brings people together from all walks of life.

Bogotá’s Ciclovía is well documented, with online pictures showing scores of people riding their bicycles along major roads normally dominated by cars. But these images still don’t prepare you for the actual event and the realization that for most participants, it’s much more of a social event rather than a bike race.

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The vast majority go at a leisurely pace so they can converse with friends, family, and often, complete strangers passing by. And it’s not uncommon to see all age groups taking part.

Stopping alongside of the road before a hill climb, it was heartening to see everyone from children just learning how to ride to seniors intently putting a push on to get to the top. And despite this challenge, there were smiles aplenty.

The party atmosphere was amplified by the fact that the route takes you past such landmarks as Parc Renacimiento (a huge public park that showcases public art and features a playground and water fountain), and numerous other stops where you can take a break, visit food and refreshment stands and enjoy the mix of musicians dispersed along the course.

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Just two years away from celebrating the 50th anniversary of this event, Bogotá’s comprehensive approach to road safety underscores why it remains the poster child for cities around the world thinking about launching their own Ciclovía.

At a major intersection, volunteers unfurled a large banner/barrier when the light turned red and then proceeded to dance and sing for the entertainment of the stopped riders, until the light turned green again and it was safe to continue on our way. It was a fun, creative way to ensure participants didn’t take any unnecessary risks by trying to beat the light.

Further down the road before a downward stretch, we encountered and a ‘maze’ of plastic barriers that forced riders to slow down and zig zag through… yet another traffic calming measure tied to promoting safe riding versus racing.

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A team of over 300 people employed by IDRD, Bogotá’s recreation and sports department help run the event. Aside from managing the safety stops, many of them bike along with the Ciclovía  participants, standing out from the crowd with their red and yellow uniforms.

Their training includes both first aid (carrying everything from bandages to heart defibrillators) and bike repairs. The latter coming in handy as the chain on my bike got caught in the derailer while changing gears on an uphill stretch.

At the side of the road, Felipe Camelo an IDRD support worker removed the rear wheel and temporarily took the chain apart so that it would release from the derailer, and before too long everything was back in place and I was on my way.

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If one word encapsulates Bogotá’s Ciclovía  experience, “exhilarating” readily involves thoughts, as a result of as already talked about it isn’t only a bike journey (and an amazingly secure one at that), however extra importantly, a possibility to expertise what dwelling in a automobile free metropolis could be like for the day. It’s a possibility for city dwellers to collectively have enjoyable, mingle, benefit from the drinks, meals, leisure and inexperienced house alongside the way in which and total, to absorb the optimistic vibe of the town.

No surprise a rising variety of communities around the globe are embracing this mannequin. In Canada, the idea is slowly catching on, albeit on a extra restricted foundation.

Ottawa has its Sunday Bikeways and Toronto has Open Streets Days, however following Bogotá’s instance, there’s no purpose we are able to’t make Ciclovía a bigger scale – weekly – yr spherical occasion throughout the nation. It’s all within the spirit of remodeling our streets into locations for folks and never simply vehicles.

Whether or not you’re a motorbike fanatic, involved citizen or native politician… if you happen to’re keen on gaining a first-hand perspective on Bogotá’s bike celebration and presumably beginning your individual Ciclovía, a very good start line is to go to the Colombia tourism web site Air Canada ( gives direct, weekly flights to Bogotá from Toronto and Montreal.

Mark Wessel lives in Collingwood, Ont. and is a passionate advocate for dwelling extra sustainably at dwelling and within the larger group. Go to

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