Bikes to the rescue!

I think we can all agree that Covid-19 is rubbish. However, it has been the catalyst for some wonderful initiatives.

The emergency bike network in Bogotá is one of those initiatives. When Covid-19 hit, one of Bogotá's responses was to create an 84km emergency bike network so that essential workers could get around more safely during the crisis. The bike lanes are designed to move commuters away from the crowded bus system in an effort to combat the coronavirus. The best thing about this network is that it seems to be just the beginning.

Bogotá's Mayor, Claudia López, has announced that the city’s development plan for the next four years would add 280 additional kilometers of bike lanes to the existing 550-kilometer network. The long-term goal is to have 50% of total trips made on bikes or other micromobility alternatives such as scooters.

One of the reasons the bike network is so important for Bogotá is that unlike most other large cities in Latin America, it doesn't have a subway system. Commuters use either buses or cars. This means the traffic there is a real problem - Bogotá is the most congested city in the world. Drivers lose 191 hours per year to traffic delays and the city is the fourth worst in terms of air pollution among Latin American capitals.

The new emergency lanes will hopefully change that.Many bike lanes have been carved from the city’s main roads and highways and run parallel to the buses; others connect existing bike paths to new ones. The city addressed safety concerns by dropping speed limits to 50 kilometers per hour citywide and declared that at least 20% of public and private parking must be put aside for bikes while the pandemic lasts.

The issue of bike theft was quickly dealt with as well - the city established a bike registration database, carrying out awareness campaigns and opening stands across the city to reach more people. “Registro Bici Bogotá” includes the user’s contact information, as well as the bike’s specific characteristics and serial number, making it harder to sell and easier to recover if stolen.

Now cities like Lima, Quito and Mexico City are looking to follow in Bogotá’s footsteps. As part of its response to Covid-19, Peru’s government pledged to open 300 additional kilometers of bike lanes in Lima, adding to the roughly 200 kilometers it already had.

Covid-19 still sucks, but at least it has spun some wheels in the right direction. (Come on - who doesn't love a terrible pun?!)

To read more about the initiative, head here.

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