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Riding Bogota’s Bountiful Protected Bikeways

Since 1998, Bogotá, Colombia has built more than 300 kilometers of protected bikeways. Streetfilms recently had the chance to explore the city's bike network with the man responsible for building it, former mayor Enrique Peñalosa.

"When we build very high quality bicycle infrastructure, besides protecting cyclists, it shows that a citizen on a $30 bicycle is equally as important to one in a $30,000 car," said Peñalosa. And as mayor, he walked the walk, extending the network of protected bikeways to every community.

"He spent all of the money that he had developing public space for pedestrians and bicycles," said Carlos Felipe Pardo from SlowResearch.org. "If you go to other places, you have people in the mud walking but the cars on a perfect road and here it is the opposite."

Now the investment in cycling infrastructure is paying off. After starting off with hardly any bike commuters, Bogota is pushing a five percent bike commute mode-share.


Enrique Penalosa:  [00:07] We have two worlds.  One is for ciclovia which is when we close the streets for cars every Sunday, 100 or so kilometres, and then we get like a million people out riding bicycles.  But then this permanent ciclovia, this permanent bikeways we call cicloruta, make a difference from the Sunday ones. 


Felipe Morales:  [00:27] This is our cicloruta or in English, cycle paths, exclusive lanes for the transit for bicycles in the city. 


Carlos Felipe Pardo:  [00:37] It is a true network of cycling and it’s a true network of high quality bicycle infrastructure. 


Guillermo Dietrich:  [00:44] It’s amazing the quantity of ciclorutas that here in Bogotá I think that there are 350 kilometres.  We are working in this direction [unintelligible] also and I think that this is the direction that we have in the cities to improve the public transportation, to improve the quality of the infrastructure.


Enrique Penalosa:  [01:03] This is Juana Maria Greenway, it connects some of the wealthiest areas of the city to some extremely poor areas.  And then people use it for transport. 


Bram Van Ooijen:  [01:14]: The great thing about Bogota’s bicycle routes and greenways is that it’s not only a cycle path, it’s not only a sidewalk, but it’s everything around it as well. 


Enrique Penalosa:  [01:22] People used to be ashamed using a bicycle because that was a sign of being the poorest of the poor.  When we build very high quality bicycle infrastructure, besides protecting cyclists, this is a powerful symbol that shows a citizen on a $30 bicycle is equally important to one on a $30,000 car.


Carlos Felipe Pardo:  [01:43] I think the infrastructure empowered people. 


Andres Felipe Vergara:  [01:46] I cycle all the time because the time, it’s faster, because the economy, you have to spend money in gasoline or parking the car and because I am autonomous, I can go when and where I want and that’s why I have my, the group, Ciclopaseo de los Miercoles that promotes the use of bicycles and that’s a way to teach everybody how to use the bicycle in the city. 


Carlos Felipe Pardo:  [02:13] There are basically two types of cycle ways.  One is on the sidewalk.  It’s beside the pedestrians and space was built additional to what was already available for pedestrians.  The other is the one that we have here where I’m standing and it is one in the median.  There is also for example the Alameda which we are today.  It’s basically a space only for non motor transit, so you only have bicycles or people walking on that.  And what I think is most useful to see in the metro [unintelligible] is that he spent all the money that he had in developing public space for pedestrians and for bicyclists.  He spent no money in cars.  He didn’t put anything there.  If you go to other places you will see that you have people in the mud walking, but then cars in a perfect road and here is the opposite of what you see everyday in every other city that hasn’t solved its transport problem. 


Enrique Penalosa:  [03:11] When we arrived at City Hall nobody used bicycles, like maybe 0.1% of the people used bicycles.  Now we have about 5% of the people using bicycles everyday to go to work.  Still very small, but it’s already 350,000 people.   


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  • Eric McClure

    Wow, the whole city is filled with "radical," "experimental," two-way protected bike lanes.

  • Anonymous

    Wait, a citizen on a bike is as important as one in a car?  That can't be true.  How are cyclists supposed to learn valuable "lessons" or be "served right" if people can't run them over with cars and trucks? It's really just cheating the cyclists out of those important, character building benefits.

  • http://walkbikejersey.blogspot.com/ Andy B from Jersey

    Wow!  From the initial screen capture I was expecting to be underwhelmed but I wasn't at all from what Elizabeth showed us.  Very nice! 

    Quite a few bollards though.  I'd be worried about crashing into those.

  • http://www.greenidea.eu Green_Idea_Factory

    What is the bike modal split in regards to gender? 5% in such a huge city is a lot of people but it's also a very diverse city as Peñalosa says directly: That path connects rich and poor but how many rich and how many poor people cycle for transportation?

  • Esteban

    Bogota is such an amazing city that often times gets overlooked by Buenos Aires, Santiago, Sao Paulo, etc. Wonderful initiative.

  • http://karenlynnallen.blogspot.com/ Karen Lynn Allen

    "When we build very high quality bicycle infrastructure, besides protecting bicyclists, this is a powerful symbol that shows that citizen on a $30 bicycle is equally as important to one in a $30,000 car."

    Democracy in action.

  • Bogota Cyclist

    If you actually used these lane everyday you'd know that they are dangerous and it is safer to ride in traffic than on the cicloruta.  More people are riding bikes, not because of the lanes, but because having half the cities main arterial roads dug up to build an inefficient mass transport system means that the bus takes 2 hours longer than a bicycle.  People are willing to risk their safety in horrendous traffic to save up to 3 hours a day in commuting.

  • Anonymous

    whoa, bikes cost $30 in bogota?

  • Dawg

    Would be interesting to know the history of the development of Bogota. Most of the streets shown in the film look HUGE (i.e. pretty easy to add bike paths). This model could apply to many of the suburban-style cities in the US, but probably not the denser cities like NYC, SF, Philly, etc.

  • Anonymous

    Great video.  I need to promote this.

  • http://twitter.com/ReneAriza René Ariza


  • http://twitter.com/ReneAriza René Ariza

    Here in Bogotá, there are plenty of bike paths, yes. But, unfortunately, they are not as used as they could, due to -mainly- urban violence: robbery, theft and the like. Bogotá is not Copenhaguen. This issue, the social context in which the bike paths were laid out, is yet to be addressed.

  • Grinch

    I grew up in Bogota and I think
    infrastructure for bicycles has improved over the last 15 years,
    there are definitely more cycle lanes these days. However, they do
    require ongoing maintenance. I don't think that has been happening
    in poorer neighbourhoods, where cycling lanes are very run down,
    which makes it unsafe for cycling- no wonder a lot of cyclists end
    up riding on the road instead-. In contrast, cycling lanes in
    more affluent and wealthy areas are better maintained, just a
    reflection of social inequality in Colombia. It is all very well
    for these guys in the urban development departments, who I wonder
    how much cycling do around the whole city, to be proud of them,
    because there is reason to be. But, it is also important to be
    critical and to realise that there is still room to improve.

  • http://www.linkedin.com/pub/chris-morfas/2a/482/610/ Chris Morfas

    Prior to the installation of Bogota's many bollards, cars had taken to parking on sidewalks and other inappropriate places.

  • http://www.linkedin.com/pub/chris-morfas/2a/482/610/ Chris Morfas

    Bogota really is a fascinating experiment in bikeway design, with certain paths working much better than others.