In the documentary Urbanized, the former mayor of Bogota, Enrique Penalosa, speaks about how his focus on bike use has had an impact on the social hierarchy in the city (he also does so in the short Streetfilms video above).
The introduction of bike paths in the Colombian capital opened up opportunities for people of all socioeconomic classes: a citizen on a $30 bike is as equally important as a citizen driving a $30,000 car. The bike paths connect the poorest neighborhoods to the center of the city and beyond.
Penalosa said this is “democracy at work.” There is no longer shame for people who are using a bike instead of driving. These bike paths elevate the status of everyone to the same level of importance.
If this same policy were implemented in Washington D.C. and surrounding counties and cities, there could an expansive network of bike paths connecting all types of neighborhoods to opportunity hubs for jobs or other social activities. Increasing the amount of bike paths throughout the District could enable people to gain mobility without polluting or taking up much space. More bicycle storage ports could be installed in or near Metro stations, and parking lots for cars could turn into parks with bicycle storage.
For many, public transportation does not reach as far as we need, or simply does not exist. A network of bicycle lanes could extend further into neighborhoods than what traditional bus and rail systems typically allow.
Personally, while coming into work today, I had to decide on how to get to the Metro station, about a mile-and-a half away from my house. I decided to take the bus on Duke Street in Alexandria, Virginia. Yes, I could have biked, however, if anyone has driven on Duke Street during rush hour, it is hectic. If a protected bike lane or just a bike lane existed, it would ease the commute for many. Instead I had to walk to the bus stop and wait an extra 10 minutes once I got there. Some do not live in the heart of a city – bike lanes would help complete the first and last mile of a commute with a healthy, sustainable option.
Though it is idealistic, it is a simple solution to many problems cities face around the world. It is not only for connecting people, but raising social statuses, erasing stigmas, and increasing the self-esteem of cities.
Also, bike paths would allow people to have more control over their time and be more autonomous. Bike paths would boost the economy, help the environment, and change the social climate of a city, producing more equality.
Photo of bicyclists in Bogota by Patton