2022-03-08 15:36:29

Bogota’s Temporary Cycle-Tracks Strategy Is Contributing to Face the COVID19, Fostering Bicycle Usage as a Social Distance Instrument

Bogota, the Colombian capital of 7.7 million residents, is considered the Latin American capital of bicycles. Over the past 20 years, the city has created 550 kilometers of bicycle lanes and introduced cycling-promotion events, including the famous weekly Ciclovía – when streets are closed on Sunday to cars and set up for cycling and walking – and the yearly Day without Cars. Unexpectedly, the COVID-19 pandemic has further promoted the use of bicycles.

This initiative was born out of the need to reduce the risk of transmission through public transportation. The city diverted the human resources into this initiative from other programmes that were suspended due to the coronavirus. In just two months, the city created 76 kilometers of temporary bicycle lanes, expanding the network by around 15%. In addition, the city-wide speed limit was reduced from 60 to 50 kmph. This initiative also has a gender focus to it. Based on a survey that found 19% of female cyclists encountered verbal or physical sexual harassment, the National Police assigned more than 300 officers to monitor the lanes.

Three months after its launch, 3.2 million cyclists were recorded. Besides, a survey concluded that more than 40% of the 1000+ respondents were converted from public transportation or private motor vehicles. Although this large number of cyclists is partly attributed to the extraordinary situation, the city has made legal and infrastructure changes to sustain the trend. New laws, regulations, authorisations have been issued to encourage the use of bicycles, expand bicycle space capacity in parking lots, and install bicycle parking furniture in public spaces. In addition, 66 km of the temporary bicycle lanes will go permanently.

Since the bicycle is an affordable vehicle, this initiative directly benefits the low-income population, who suffer the most from the pandemic. Cycling improves their access to job opportunities, saves money, and enhances their ability to meet basic needs. It has also contributed to reducing carbon emissions and promoting healthy habits. Due to its success, it has inspired similar practices in neighbouring and overseas cities such as Medellin, Mexico City, and Berlin.

This initiative supports the realisation of SDGs 3 (good health and wellbeing), 5 (gender equality), 10 (reduced inequalities), 11 (sustainable cities and communities), and 13 (climate action).