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How Bogotá’s Cycling Superhighway Shaped a Generation - CityLab

For many families, the Ciclovía is often one of the very best things about living in Bogotá. And kids start very young.

BOGOTÁ—It’s a misty Sunday morning and the Septima, a choking six-lane thoroughfare usually packed with smoky buses, cars, and yellow taxis, is quiet. There is movement here, but with half the road closed to motorized traffic, hardly any cars.


Instead, parents jog along with running buggies. Cyclists decked out in Lycra take to the street alongside toddlers on tricycles. One couple flies past on a tandem with a baby on the back; behind is a grandmother getting a gentle push up the incline as her pedaling slows. There are men and women, young and old, the Sunday strollers and the athletes. All of Bogotá is here, and it’s marvelous.


This road is one of the cycle superhighways that make up the Ciclovía program in the Colombian capital, the largest street cycle scheme of its kind anywhere in the world.


Started 40 years ago by a small group of activists with “one lorry and a few signs,” today the program is run by the city and sees some 120 kilometres of tarmac turned into a cycle lane from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Sunday and holiday.


In a city often choked by pollution, such a scheme was once revolutionary. Now, it has become one of the city’s most famous exports—hundreds of cities have tried to recreate Ciclovía on their own streets.

For children that tend to live in small apartments, it’s liberating. For families, it is often one of the very best things about living in Bogotá. And kids start very young.


My three-year-old has grown up on this weekly tradition; at first, we took her in the buggy, then behind me in a child’s bike seat. Today she powers along on her scooter, occasionally oblivious to the need to go in a straight line, but perfectly safe from cars even as she zooms along what is normally one of the busiest roads in the sector. When she sees a bike lane now, anywhere, she shrieks: “Look Mummy, it’s ciclovía!”


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