Mobility is not just about cars: Ciclovía in Bogotá

by Ares Kalandides

While doing research on strengths and weaknesses in Bogotá, Colombia, there was a recurring theme that most of my interview partners kept referring to: Ciclovía. If you’re new to Bogotá, you can’t grasp the importance of this institution for the quality of urban life. But once you get to experience it, you fall in love.

Ciclovía, which could translate into English as “bike path” is a designated temporary event, the closing of city streets to cars for use by others. This includes, but is not limited to, bicycles, but also pedestrians, wheel-chair users, joggers, roller-bladers, dog-walkers and any type of non-motorized mobility. Every Sunday and on holidays, over 120kms of the streets of Bogotá are taken from the car to be used by approximately 2 million people (Bogotá has a population of ca. 8 million). The administration offers stages of recreation around parks and streets corners: aerobics, dance, gymnastics of all kind…

For me there are at least two very interesting issues to that:

First, Ciclovía challenges our understanding of mobility – fixated on the car and motorised vehicles. Mobility is a lot more than that and has to do with a very fundamental right to the city and its public space.

Secondly, Ciclovía produces a very inclusive, temporary public space, bringing people together from the rich North to the poor South. It creates a link between the people and urban space, rarely experienced through the isolation of private cars.

Ciclovías now take place in many cities around the world, but the original one is from Bogotá. Ciclovía started in 1976 and it would be hard to think of this city, so dominated by the car, without it.

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