Bogota and the Netherlands, side by side to improve the urban mobility

Date: 11 May 2016
Cat: Bicycle, Colombia, Safety, Urban policy

On the 26th of April, Urbanovacion had the chance to attend the conference about cycling. This event was held in parallel with the book fair of Bogota where the Netherlands was the guest of honor. Several famous players were attending the talk: the actual mayor of Bogota, Enrique Penalosa, the ambassador of Netherlands and experts from Netherlands and Colombia. The aim, discuss altogether about the drivers to improve the use of bicycle as a daily way of commuting in Bogota.

Here is a short summary of this very interesting discussion we were lucky enough to attend!

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The Bogota Book Fair, a flagship event of the city, had the Netherlands as the guest of honor this year. Aside literature’s events, several events related to bicycling were organized. On Sunday, the weekly Ciclovia has turned into the Ciclovia Naranja (or Orange ciclovia) in honor of Netherlands.  

On the 26th of April, in parallel with the book fair, the « Conferencia sobre la Bici » (or conference about bicycling) was held with distinguished speakers as: Enrique Penalosa (actual mayor of Bogota and instigator of the Transmillenio during his last term from 1998 to 2001), Hoover Penilla (Bogota police commander), the Ambassador of Netherlands, Hanneke Brow (responsible for police bicycling program in Netherlands) and Stefan Bendiks (urbanist).

The aim: take advantage of the presence of experts from Netherlands to get inputs about improving and facilitating the mobility of bicycle’s users in Bogota.


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The current situation

« Today, 5% of the daily trips are made by bicycles. It means a community of more than 50 000 people and ranks Bogota 1st as the city with the most important percentage of bicycles rides each day», says proudly Enrique Penalosa. However, Bogota hasn’t set up a bike sharing system as in majority of western cities (velib, velo…) or in Mexico (ecobici). In less than 10 years, this percentage has grown by 5,5 points and the objective of Penalosa, recently re-elected, is to go further : to reach 10% in the coming years !

« A significant community of cyclists has a real impact on: the traffic, air contamination and the overall quality of life. Therefore, it is mandatory to make it a priority » », Enrique Penalosa.

Today, the major problem in Bogota is the safety for cyclist:

  • Physical safety: major parts of dead people on the roads of Bogota are pedestrians or cyclists.
  • Good safety: many cyclists record robbery of their bicycle or robbery when they are riding!


« We have to find a solution to improve this community’s safety. This is one of the basic of our constitution: each community is equal and should have access to the same safety, same space on the road… whoever you are: cyclist or pedestrian! “;
Enrique Penalosa.

Bogota has decided to work side by side with experts from Netherlands to improve the conditions of bicycle’s use!

Les recommandations Hollandaises

Les experts Hollandais, Hanneke Brow et Stefan Bendiks, se sont relayés pour évoquer les pistes de travail pour la ville de Bogota.

  • Infrastructure :
    • A city has to integrate bicycle in its full transport system and should not isolate it from others means of transport: they have to think multi-modality!
    • It is mandatory to think about parking space for bikes close to other means of transport. Stefan Bendiks relates the case of Utrecht (Netherlands): a city with more than 20 000 bicycles parking space!
  • Culture :
    • For a long time, the Netherlands has integrated bicycles as a way of commuting. It is a real philosophy!
    • It is highly recommended to create a communication between the different communities. For example, Copenhagen has made it mandatory of taxi drivers to have bicycle carrier on their taxi. Thus, they proved to taxi drivers that cyclists are not their enemies but can also be their customers”, Stefan Bendiks.
    • Cyclist community is very particular in terms of norms and culture. Therefore, it is important to make a distinction between automotive and cyclist users when making policies. Stefan Bendiks mentions the example of “rolling stops » in the United States. Some cities have authorized cyclists to not mark the stop at the traffic light but only slow down.  
  • Safety:
    • It is mandatory to bring tools to the police by making new law regulations. Some countries have not well adapted laws to protect the cyclists’ community: “this is really not a good signal when an offender is arrested by the police and released the same day”, Hanneke Brow.
    • The city needs “to create interactions with its citizens and encourage them to communicate with policemen. It is a long-term exercise based on the communication and the proximity of every actors from different communities”, Hanneke Brow
    • Regarding the cyclist police program which allows more proximity with the citizens and make the police faster to intervene at some place, « it is necessary to work on the visual with : uniforms and easily recognizable bicycles », Hanneke Brow.
Baby You Can Ride My Bike

Intermodality in Barcelona –  (photo: Patrick Lydon | sociecity)


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Parking space for bikes in Utrecht – Photo: http://blog.velib.paris.fr/


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Police officer on a bike- Bogota – Photo: Marie Quinquis

Lots of areas of works have been mentioned during this exchange and both countries will work together on this program. However, Hanneke Brow clearly mentions that each country/city is different and Bogota won’t be able to copy and paste the Dutch model but will be, for sure, benefiting from this experience!