- DATE May 08-10
- LOCATION Bogotá and Bucaramanga
Cycling is a cherished pastime in Colombia. Ciclovías, weekly closures of roads to motor traffic to allow those on bikes, foot or other sustainable modes of transport to enjoy these public spaces, began in Bogotá in the 1970s. Colombian cities also organise car- (and motorcycle-)free days on weekdays, events of an unparalleled scope and ambition across the world. It is thus no surprise that Colombian professional cyclists are some of the most feared competitors in cycling races and tours. Cycling is also fast emerging as a mode of transport in Colombia across cities of different sizes, climates and altitudes. Bogotá, for example, has set itself the objective to become the world’s cycling capital.
The C40 Cities Finance Facility (CFF), in partnership with Bogotá’s Secretaría de Movilidad and Bucaramanga’s Oficina de la Bici, organised a 3-day workshop on May 8-10, 2019, to help Colombian cities improve how they plan, design, finance and implement cycling infrastructure, particularly cycle lanes. This event aimed to foster the exchange of knowledge between Colombian cities working on cycling infrastructure, while sharing the lessons learned from the CFF’s support to Bogotá’s Quinto Centenario cycle avenue.
14 cities attended the workshop, held across Bogotá and Bucaramanga: Armenia, Barranquilla, Bogotá, Bucaramanga, Cali, Ibagué, Medellín, Montería, Palmira, Pasto, Pereira, Popayán, Valledupar and Villavicencio. Topics of discussion included design standards, road safety, network planning, institutional coordination, financing and stakeholder engagement. Representatives from NACTO - Global Designing Cities Initiative, Despacio, the Colombian Ministries of Transport and Planning, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the Colombian development bank FINDETER, CAF and the World Resources Institute (WRI) contributed their insights and expertise.
Colombian cities are at different stages in their journeys to develop safe and convenient cycling infrastructure for their citizens. Some have been creating hundreds of kilometres, of varying quality, since the 1990s, others have just begun implementing their first corridors. The workshop illustrated, through presentations and site visits, just how important it is that cycle lanes are built to a high-standard, to ensure they are accessible to all. It also served as a platform to address questions about how to institutionalise the bicycle in municipal strategies and policy, particularly given upcoming elections in all Colombian cities in October 2019.
The workshop included presentations of good practices from the attendees, peer-to-peer exchanges about inter-institutional coordination and financing and site visits to new cycle lanes in Bogotá and Bucaramanga. Participants had the opportunity to ride along new infrastructure on Carrera 16 and 19 in Bogotá, from Santa Fe to Barrios Unidos. These lanes encourage cycle traffic away from the main thoroughfares and onto more residential and cycle-friendly streets; some were trialled through pilot projects before being implemented permanently. In Bucaramanga, participants rode on a new corridor, part of the city’s strategy to develop 17km of cycling infrastructure. The city is also looking to establish a public bike-sharing system before the end of 2019.
The workshop also highlighted common challenges faced by Colombian cities. One is the rapid increase in motorisation, particularly motorbikes. In Montería, trips by motorbike have replaced a large percentage of trips that used to take place on public transport in the last decade. Another challenge is road safety, which cities are addressing through interventions on dangerous crossings, lower speed limits, traffic calming measures and campaigns (such as Villavicencio’s #respetaalciclista campaign). Linked to safety is the issue of security, with cyclists becoming victims of robberies and attacks, sometimes fatal. Thirdly, municipalities are devising new ways of promoting the bicycle and engaging citizens and businesses to encourage support of cycling policies. Popular backing for cycling, beyond activism – which has even opposed some cities’ actions – is key to ensure momentum continues beyond the end of the current administrations in late 2019.
The CFF has been supporting cycling projects in Colombia since 2016. It has developed feasibility studies for Bogotá’s Quinto Centenario cycle avenue, in partnership with the Inter-American Development Bank and the World Resources Institute. This 25km cycle avenue is a key element in Plan Bici, the city’s roadmap to double the number of cycling trips from 5% to 10% of all trips. An initial report on the project’s enabling environment was published in March 2018. The CFF recently announced its support to 4 other projects in Colombia, in Bogotá, Bucaramanga, Cali and Montería, all involving the establishment of bike-sharing systems.
Activities focused on sharing knowledge with other cities and with national and regional policy-makers will be scaled up as the CFF continues to support more cities across the world. Similar workshops are planned around electric buses, community-led ecosystem-based adaptation and solar PV in 2019.