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In Bogotá, Cyclists Concern Turning into Crime Victims

Bicycles are an important a part of the Colombian identification — ubiquitous, cheaper and, in some city communities, usually a sooner approach to get round.

No Colombian metropolis embodies using on two wheels greater than the capital, Bogotá, the place the metropolitan space of practically 11 million inhabitants has no subway system and a number of the world’s worst visitors jams.

Town has over 1.1 million bicycles, based on officers, and data practically 900,000 bicycle journeys per day. On Sundays and holidays, greater than 80 miles of main streets are shut down, a convention that usually attracts two million individuals at a time.

“It’s the D.N.A. of this metropolis,” stated Bogotá’s mayor, Carlos Fernando Galán.

However quite a lot of robberies and assaults of cyclists this 12 months have left many riders in Bogotá on edge. A current information report estimated {that a} bicycle was stolen within the capital each 42 minutes and small gangs of thieves have focused cyclists.

“The insecurity for cyclists is at a most excessive,” stated Yim Ángel, a founding father of the Bicycle Collective, an advocacy group. “Cyclists contribute to the setting, to transportation, to well being, to sports activities, to recreation. However on this second, we don’t have a assure of safety to maneuver round freely in Bogotá. We’re scared.”

Bicyclists, from on a regular basis commuters to die-hard riders, and advocacy teams have demanded that the town do extra to make the town safer for them, and Mr. Galán, who took workplace in January, stated officers have been already exploring a wide range of steps.

Whereas police knowledge reveals that bike thefts have dropped in recent times, an increase in some kinds of violent crimes in Bogotá final 12 months, like robberies, sexual assaults and carjackings, has fueled rising issues that the sprawling metropolis is turning into much less protected, together with for cyclists.

Including to the uneasiness has been a string of violent crimes, together with the killing of a businessman and a number of armed robberies, in additional prosperous and often quieter elements of the town.

Mr. Galan, in an interview, stated he apprehensive that elevated worry was inflicting individuals to desert extra environmentally pleasant methods to maneuver round Bogotá.

“There are a lot of individuals who can do journeys of 4, 5, six blocks from dwelling to work or to go purchase one thing, however immediately they’re doing it by automotive, but may very well be doing it by bicycle or on foot,” he stated. “That’s why, for us, safety is a basic precedence.”

David Santiago Cortés Peña, 23, who runs a bicycle store in Bogotá and rode on an expert biking workforce final 12 months, set out not too long ago on a roughly 30-mile coaching trip to a city outdoors the town.

Round 5:30 a.m., en path to assembly associates on the base of the mountain close to the place he lives, Mr. Cortés stated a person jumped out from behind a tree at the hours of darkness. He tried to maneuver across the man, however he stated the person fired at him, a bullet grazing his eyebrow and forcing him off his bike.

As he lay bleeding on the bottom, Mr. Cortés stated, he noticed the person racing off along with his bicycle, which value him $3,500. To pay for it, he had taken out a mortgage, offered some belongings and acquired assist from his older brother.

“It was an effort by the entire household throughout a whole 12 months to pay it off,” he stated.

He had insurance coverage for his bicycle, but it surely had lapsed in December and he had not renewed the coverage. He had additionally determined it was getting too costly to pay for one thing that many superior riders within the metropolis use — a motorbike escort.

As of late, Mr. Cortés is utilizing a borrowed bike, and stated he would trip solely in daytime and would rent an escort.

“I’ll find yourself with out financial savings,’’ he stated, “but it surely’s higher for security.”

Luis Fernando Guarin, 37, was not on a coaching trip when he fell sufferer. He was doing what many in Bogotá use their bicycles for: commuting to and from work. He stated a nine-mile journey every approach that may take two hours by public bus takes half that point pedaling on two wheels.

“It additionally de-stresses me,” stated Mr. Guarin, who works for a telecommunications firm.

He was using dwelling on a current Friday night time on a bicycle path alongside a serious highway when, he stated, he was accosted by 4 males who jumped out from behind some bushes making an attempt to rob him. When he resisted, Mr. Guarin stated, he was stabbed twice within the stomach earlier than his attackers made off along with his bike.

He tried to file a police report on-line from his cellphone whereas on the hospital and at dwelling, however he stated the web site to enter such studies was not working. He additionally by no means made it to a police station to do it in particular person. Even when he had logged a report, Mr. Guarin stated, he had little religion that his bike could be recovered.

Town operates a bicycle register designed to make it simpler to establish stolen bikes and return them to their homeowners. Up to now, 400,000 bikes have been registered, based on Mr. Galán, the mayor, who wish to see that quantity rise considerably.

Of the 1,100 bikes stolen within the metropolis within the first two months of this 12 months, solely about 15 % have been recovered, he stated. Specialists stated many thefts may very well be thwarted if cyclists locked their bikes or used stronger locks once they weren’t using.

Mr. Ángel, who helped kind the bicycle advocacy group a number of years in the past after the deadly capturing of a bike owner in Bogotá, stated his group had postponed two current protest rallies after holding discussions with officers about bettering bicycle security.

The group has pushed 10 suggestions, a few of which mirror what the town is contemplating putting in within the coming months.

Mr. Galán rattled off a listing of attainable steps: specializing in the 5 neighborhoods the place nearly all of bike robberies happen; growing police presence on predominant roads; putting in extra road cameras and lights; making it simpler to file police studies; and growing the punishment for robberies as a stronger deterrence.

Andrea María Navarrete, who was the town’s biking supervisor from 2021 to 2023, stated making biking safer would additionally to assist deal with a big gender disparity amongst cyclists and encourage extra girls to bike.

“If girls don’t understand threat within the infrastructure, which means everybody will take pleasure in it,” she stated.

Mr. Galán promised to construct on the town’s mobility achievements to grow to be “the bicycle capital of the world.”

“I do know many individuals will criticize that saying, ‘With a lot insecurity, how are you going to say that?’” he added. “It’s true: Now we have safety issues that we’re making an attempt to resolve. And now we have to maintain increasing the bike paths and bike lanes so individuals can transfer round. This metropolis has a really particular connection to the bicycle.”

Simón Posada contributed reporting.

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