Ciclovia: Bogotá, Colombia
Recently, I had the opportunity to travel with comrades Karla Quintero (Transportation Alternatives) and Aaron Naparstek (Streetsblog) to Bogotá, Colombia to document some of the amazing advances going on in the livable streets movement there. On Sunday we spent the entire day – from 5 AM ’til nearly 5 PM – riding bicycles around the city courtesy of the Ciclovia, a weekly event in which over 70 miles of city streets are closed to traffic where residents come out to walk, bike, run, skate, recreate, picnic, and talk with family, neighbors & strangers…it is simply one of the most moving experiences I have had in my entire life.
I shot with no plan, not knowing much of what was coming up next while we rode our bikes, just trying to capture the event in the moment. We were aided tremendously by the indefatigable Gil Peñalosa, Executive Director of Walk and Bike for Life (yes, brother of Enrique, the former Bogotá mayor.) Gil and his friendly support crew booked us an ambitious schedule and provided unparalleled access to people and places, allowing this mini film to be so much more than I had planned. And dare I leave out our StreeJ Karla Q, who was just so great on the mike. I think we came up with something very special and fun that will hopefully support and propel this movement forward in U.S. cities.
What immediately comes to mind when I think back to our trip were the ubiquitous smiles on everyone’s faces wherever we went. Nearly 1.8 million Colombians out using the Ciclovia and Recreovia to de-stress, get healthy, and connect personally with their fellow citizens. Young or old, rich or poor, pedestrian or cyclist – in Bogotá everyone loves the Ciclovia.
Just to get a grasp on just what this could be like in NYC: imagine the once-a-year Bike New York event in May, multiply the number of participants by over 30, double the mileage of roads closed to cars and leave them that way for a full seven hours, make the event free, and then do it every Sunday – and holidays!(Note: this is the first of multiple reports from Bogotá. In the near future, look for a short(s) on BRT, cycle paths, Bogotá life and parks.)