Thanks to Armando Rodríguez (La Guarida) and Laura Rojas (Bicistema) for their contribution to this piece.

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The beginning

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Source: ConcienBiciate

When I met them, they were still separate groups. Among them was ConcienBiciate. We would ride through the city every Friday or Saturday. As a consolidated group, ConcienBiciate had been riding since 2014. They began as ‘Classy Bikes’, a group of about fifteen people [1] and bit by bit, with every ride, they grew. When I joined, the rides had between two and three hundred people. We rode dressed in colourful wacky outfits for diversity, with music playing to keep our ears warm and our hearts full of positive energy, with many ideas in mind. These ideas formed part of a great vision for an imaginary city. A city where one day we would be able to ride on safe roads; without punctures; without breathing in the fumes from the cars; thanking the taxi drivers for letting us through; seeing other other fellow cyclists and knowing that they also feel that fantastic energy that comes with riding, knowing that they also feel that pride of having been part of the fight for making this imaginary city, a reality. And well, we also rode for the party, the good vibes and everything else that those of us like to do as human beings when we get together to have a good time.

From the beginning the objective of this group was to: reduce the prejudice that was formed around the idea of cycle-citizens [2]; raise awareness about mobility, inclusion and sharing the roads in the city; and about creating a collective conscience for the empowerment of the citizen.

Today: La Guarida

Three years later, I am back in Bogotá, searching for that great vibe or that ‘Buena Papa’ as Armando Rodriguez, leader of ConcienBiciate liked to say. What I find is not the same. It’s better. It’s more consolidated, more unified, more logical, more transformative. The beginning has grown, it has matured, it has learnt and experiments. Today it is an adolescent.

As a city, Bogotá’s objective to become the cycle capital of Latin America [3]. It has actually been claim as the city with the highest number of transit routes for cyclists in Latin America [4]. La Guarida aims to play a protagonist role in reaching this objective.  While Bogotá wishes to be a cycle capital, La Guarida aims to become the cycle embassy or the “EMBICI”. La Guarida represents the formalisation and institutionalisation of the different components of the cycling community in Colombia, with global aspirations. It’s objective is to bring the World Cycle Forum to Bogotá in 2021.

The cycle embassy will have three principal roles says Armando in January 2019:

The Digital: “Our communication with the rest of the world, being the voice-carriers of the whole cycling community in Colombia, demonstrating its different projects, achievements and progress. All of which point toward the promotion and practice of new sustainable dynamics inspired and executed thanks to the bicycle”

The Physical: “We count on a space that will soon be a reference to the rest of the world of a space that is self-sustainable; in our work team we have the very skilled MOVA Cycling group and their extensive Crowdfunding campaigning experience. With them, we have developed a campaign to fund the necessary changes to this space so it can run on solar energy, rain water and urban agriculture”

The Presence: “By articulating and organising the different leaderships that make up the local and national cycling community we aim to feed each other with the knowledge and experiences that we have built. Parallel to this, through collective action to realise events that reach the global scale, with excellent management and organisation. Thus allowing Colombia to become a global reference in cycling and its related disciplines”

So, as you can see, in addition to being a collective of cycle-citizens that are activists, entrepreneurs and friends, La Guarida aims to do more than ride a bike, it aims to transform the city and support other forms of expressions from citizens that are fighting to exercise their right to the city; including having a greater role to play in planning their city. Most recently, for example, they were actively involved in the organisation of the Septimazo Climático (Climate takeover of the 7ma, which is a main road in Bogotá), “an initiative to the environmental rights of the citizens of Bogotá” [5].

“The construction of a main Transmilenio (public bus route) route through the Septima (7th avenue) would mean the slicing away of important emblematic spaces such as the National Park, the Javeriana University, the Ortiz Mall and even the Council Seminary of Bogota, as well as the cutting down of 1,945 trees that reside along the trajectory. A clear detriment, not only environmentally, but also patrimonially” (Interpreted by author from source [5]).

The changes that have been noticed in the city

The greatest change in the city as one become a cycle-citizen, is in oneself. The relationship one develops with the city is completely different. The relationship one develops with time, nature, light, energy and independence, is something else.

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An inclusive society

A growing stronger cycling culture can be observed between those who inhabit this city. A study by the Interamerican Bank indicates that Bogotá is the city with the greatest number of cycle trips per day, in the region [4]. A culture that is has gradually been formed through weekly events such as the bici-paseo de los domingos (cycle paths on sundays) and bici-paseo nocturno de los miércoles (Wednesday night cycle paths). Cycle to work and school days, cycling networks, Safe Cycle Vibes as well as other initiatives have also sought to promote this culture [1].

In addition to this, in Bogotá, bit by bit one can see more cycle routes lining the roads through which cars travel. This is something that demonstrates that “bikes are here to stay” says Laura Rojas,  founder of Bicistema, Bogotá. In fact, the Interamerican Development Bank has identified Bogotá as the city with the greatest infrastructure for cycling mobility in the region too [4]. This is also a significant change that one notices when becoming cycle-citizen – and perhaps as a car driver, as there is less space for cars and more for cycles (see below).

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Cycle path protected from cars

But the battle continues as highlighted by Semana Sostenible that indicates that, in the Peñalosa (today’s mayor) governments plan, this topic has very little importance [4]. And actually, it’s missing things, for example the establishment of cycle parking stations; lights for cycle routes that can be dangerous at night; and various cycle routes continue to occupy pedestrian space, while the larger part of the space continues to be dominated by vehicles.

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Crossings with blue paint – the struggle continues

It’s this shift in culture that has driven the demand for more cycles on the streets, a great economic opportunity for some and for others a motivation to steal. Nonetheless, this brings me to fact that local economies are also changing thanks to – and as part of – this cycle revolution. As Laura says, bicycles ‘moves the economy’. For example, many entrepreneurs have emerged not only to sell bikes but also building on everything that a cycling represents, fashion, health, design, and urban planning.

Cycling doesn’t only bring changes in private and public-private life, political shifts have also taken place in the context of Bogotá. Changes in the administration for example, demonstrated the crucial role that bicycles are beginning to have, “…thanks to the last two administrations that have seen the potential of bicycles in the conformation of future cities and how through local authorities the network of routes continues to grow,  different campaigns are emerging regarding security, culture and the respect toward the cycling community, educating the new generations of cyclists” (Armando, January 2019). Additionally, in 2016, the Colombian government signed the Ley 1811 (a pro-cycling law). Ny having a law that protects cyclists in the public domain where there are no cycle routes, this allows the bicycle to become on of the main methods of transport in Colombia [5].

Nonetheless, other observants have notices that, although Peñalosa’s Plan Bici (cycle plan) promises the “…mechanism of communication to gather opinions and experiences form Bogotan cyclists will be opened, and the findings will be used to improve the work around cycle infrastructure” [5]; “…a public office exclusively in charge of promoting and regularising the use of the bicycle does not exist, and what is still missing is that the cycling network be integrated to the public transport system of the city ” [4]. There is still, a long way to go.

La Guarida in the global cycling network

ConcienBiciate and La Guarida have participated in the last two global cycle forums. The first was in Porto Alegre, Brasil, in 2011. In 2016, the global cycle forum was in Medellín, Colombia. There have also been forums in Lima and México City. The next is due to be held in Quito. In the meantime, they are collaborating with the cycle network of Kathmandu, Nepal where the forum of 2020 will take place. Through these forums, La Guarida has focused on “…uniting the Latin American cycling communities with the hope to exchange experiences and knowledge that strengthen our own processes as well as the ones of our neighbours that are also engaging in similar actions in the city”(Armando, January 2019).

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Fuente: La Guarida Facebook

“The World Urban Cycle Forum is the biggest urban cycling event in the world. It brings together citizens, collectives and international networks of cycle-activists and citizens interested in the re-vindication of the use of the bicycle for sustainable mobility in the city. The forum is a common good made up of the encounter between global urban cycling culture characterised by its horizontality, collaborative relations and volunteering. This event seeks to generate reflection and put forward proposals about: mobility, citizenship, planning, access and sustainability with the aim of positively impacting the destiny of our cities” [6].

La Guarida y and future ‘EMBICI’, in addition to bringing the global cycling community to the city of Bogotá in 2021, is currently working on an audiovisual piece that documents the process that is taking place in this city. This documentary “…will be a manual for the global cycling community to see the basic tools and inspiration to begin to organise their own local cycling community and begin mobilising the creation and conformation of ‘the embassy of the bicycle’ in their own country or city: automatically linking up with the network of emerging global embassies through this initiative” (Armando, January 2019).

Mobilising, between the people that ride and the people that decide

As a leader, among other leaders of this movement, could you identify three  important lessons that you have experienced in relation to cycle activism in Bogotá? (interview to Armando, January 2019)

1 – Synergy: Thanks to the actions that are born from and motivate all leaders to gradually work together and achieve their goals as a family.

2 – From a word to an action: Empowering ourselves with our positions by passing from discourse to concrete actions in support of the community that we have collectively built.

3 – Inter-institutional work: Beginning with the dynamics that come from self-mobilisation and anchoring them in institutions that believe in alternative and different processes, as well as their leaderships, to catalyse these processes with their economic and/or mobilising power.

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Cycle Citizens

 

Sources

[1] ConcienBiciate: el parche para los amantes de las bicis en Bogotá, Cultura Pop, Julio 2014 (Obtenido: 22.01.2019)

[2] ConcienBiciate: Ciclismo, activismo y civismo, Osorio Guillot, A. & Leon, J., La Oreja Roja, Abril 2018 (Obtenido: 22.01.2019)

[3] Así logrará Bogotá convertirse en la capital de la bicicleta, Alcaldia Mayor de Bogota, Julio 2016, (Obtenido: 28.01.2019)

[4] Bogotá es la ciudad con más kilómetros de ciclovías en América Latina, Semana Sostenible, Enero 2016 (Obtenido: 28.01.2019)

[5] El Septimazo Climático: una iniciativa por los derechos ambientales de los Bogotanos,  Guerrero, J., Cartel Urbano,Septiembre 2018 (Obtenido: 22.01.2019)

[6] CDMX, sede del Foro Mundial de la Bicicleta 2017, UNAM Global, (Obtenido: 28.01.2019)

[7] ConcienBiciate: el grupo de la 85 que busca promover el uso de la bici, El Tiempo Zona, El Tiempo, Mayo 2014 (Obtenido 22.01.2019)

Posted by:ENGAGING URBAN

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