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[Listen to an audio version of this blog entry here.]

Having gone from a very casual cyclist in Bogotá to a more regular one over the last few months, I’ve become acquainted with the rush-hour hustle, in a part-time capacity in any case.

The bellicose side to biking in Bogotá, worsened by the snooty e-scooterers

Bogotá’s cycle paths, like many things in Colombia, are something of a free-for-all.

The various infrastructural issues with stretches of the capital’s ever-expanding cycle lanes notwithstanding — something I elaborated on in Bogotá’s biking blues — it can be assumed that cycling in the city today is safer than it was a decade or so ago.

One reason for this is the very fact that there are more push-bike exclusive-ish paths, thus reducing interactions with the murderous motorised machines. That’s the idea/hope anyway.

A vicious cycle
Yet, the aggressive, devil-may-care driving displayed by those who get behind the wheel of a car has its biking equivalent. This is to be expected in a country where the thinking of many seems to be along the lines of, ‘Whatever rules may apply, these are for others to obey, not me.’

A substantial number of cyclists — and e-scooter users (can we call them e-scooterers?! I do have other terms for these particular menaces that I shan’t repeat here) — must believe that traffic lights are nothing more than luminous displays. If they notice their existence at all, that is.

It may indeed be the latter because they certainly don’t seem to notice the existence of other cycle-lane users. Heaven forbid one might have to wait behind a long line of bikes at a busy junction. ‘I’m in a rush to get to work, another place where I get to demonstrate my lack of care and attention.’ Quite.

Now, I must say, I’m not totally against proceeding at a red light when it’s clearly safe to do so and one is at the top of the queue. It’s those who barge their way forward from way back who truly annoy me. To add insult to injury, I’ve often found myself having to overtake such barging bikers shortly after their junction jumping. I’d be less angry if they were speedsters. But many aren’t.

With such selfish behaviour commonplace, one is often compelled to follow suit. The road is long and uncaring for the rule-obeying cyclist, just as it is for the law-abiding citizen in general in many parts of the world. Thus, what should be a healthy, refreshing morning commute turns into a stress-filled battle of wits.

‘Many e-scooterers use their high-speed, not-as-green-as-they-think-they-are contraptions as if they’re auditioning to be the next James Bond.’

For the record, when one cycles at off-peak times — which I do on the return from my Parque 93 classes — it is usually a more relaxed affair. Having said that, my spin to work, which takes me southwards from Calle 170 along Avenida Novena, is seen as one of the more “civilised” routes. Deeper south, things are said to be even more chaotic (I have experienced this side on the odd occasion but I can’t comment with any authority).

This careless conduct isn’t going to change overnight. Indeed, it won’t change at all if there’s no genuine attempt to do so.

It’s not a hopeless situation, though. The Sunday/public holiday ciclovía, an initiative where many of Bogotá’s main thoroughfares are closed off to vehicular traffic from 7 am to 2 pm for the exclusive use of pedestrians and cyclists, offers some clues to a better way.

On such days, city authorities deploy personnel to “police” busy junctions. When traffic lights are red, they’ll often pull a rope across the road to hold pedestrians, cyclists, rollerbladers and what have you in place. From my limited observations of the practice, it seems to work. (I’m not a major fan of travelling on ciclovía routes. As a mild misanthrope, I find the many bodies about quite irritating.)

OK, having such personnel in place at weekday rush hours, when commuters are generally less jovial, is another matter. But hey, there is a police force here for such tasks. Then again, there are many things here that police should be policing but not only do they not police them, they often commit the offences themselves.

Another positive of ciclovía is its one-way system. Granted space is at a premium in the city, but introducing more one-way cycle lanes where possible could help to reduce commuter tensions.

Upsetting the Bond market
While the previous suggestion has merit in its own right, I think it carries even more weight in light of the recent invasion of the cycle ways by those aforementioned menaces, the e-scooterers.

Should e-scooters be banned?

Should e-scooters be banned?

Seeing as how many of these types appear to use their high-speed, not-as-green-as-they-think-they-are contraptions as if they’re auditioning to be the next James Bond, my preference is to ban them altogether. (There are similar calls across the world.)

With such an outright ban unlikely, they should at least be prohibited on cycle lanes and footpaths. Basically, battle it out with other battery-containing/powered modes of transport, wannabe 007s.

Cycle lanes and footpaths, separately (or as close to separately as possible), should be reserved exclusively for those burning their own energy to get around, save for people with genuine mobility problems. So yes, motorised-bike or electric-moped users should also stay off the cycle lanes.

As pointed out, we old-fashioned pedallers have enough with which to concern ourselves without having to compete with these lazy new-age commuters.

So while I’ll be happy to return to my preferred walking ways when my teaching work finishes shortly, I’d still like to give the snooty e-scooterers the boot.
Listen to Wrong Way’s Colombia Cast podcast here.

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La vida en Colombia desde la perspectiva de un periodista y locutor irlandés, quien ha vivido en el país desde 2011. El blog explora temas sociales y culturales, interacción con los nativos, viajes, actualidades y mucho más. Escucha su podcast acá: https://anchor.fm/brendan-corrigan.

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