Bogotá is considered “the world capital of the bike”, in addition to being an example city in terms of strategies that mitigate the impact on the environment, according to the District Authorities. Given this assertion, and within the framework of the 2023 Sustainable Mobility Week, various international experts have presented their concept on this and other related issues.
Under this premise, EL NUEVO SIGLO spoke with Melissa Bruntlett, an expert in accessible mobility and panelist for Sustainable Week, about the challenges that Bogotá has in terms of sustainability, projects such as the green corridor along Carrera Séptima and the conclusions of the contribution of the citizens to these initiatives.
Bruntlett is a writer, communications consultant focused on accessible mobility and sustainable cities; she is also the co-author of “Building the Cycling City: The Dutch Blueprint for Urban Vitality” and “Curbing Traffic: The Human Case for Fewer Cars in Our Lives”.
THE NEW CENTURY: What is accessible mobility?
MELISSA BRUNTLETT: Accessible mobility is the model by which all people are taken into account as road actors. This includes citizens of all ages, gender, economic differences, educational level, whether they have a job or are unemployed, have some type of disability or not. So, for example, if they have vision or hearing impairments, ideally transportation can be accessible for these people as well. That is what accessible mobility is all about.
ENS: What challenges does making Bogota a sustainable city represent?
MB: There are challenges that are also opportunities. The first thing is that there must be an exclusive road network for bicycles, just as there is one for transporting in cars. In this way, it is guaranteed that there are more possibilities to transit safely for all road actors.
There is a relationship between accessible mobility and a sustainable city, it is a great question because the relationship is often misunderstood. If there is access to a car, there must also be barrier-free access for transportation in general, based on the concept of sustainability, which benefits all people, including those with disabilities, those who do not know how to drive and those who do not have sufficient economic resources.
ENS: Is it possible to generate a balance between the mobility of vehicles and the traffic of people on the streets?
MB: In this it is important to base ourselves on the concept of prioritization. The balance must lean towards sustainability, that is, towards the side where pedestrians are given value. This does not mean that there should not be a balance between the mobility of people and vehicles. That should be the goal.
ENS: Do you think that Bogotá is on the right track with the implementation of friendly strategies with the different road stakeholders?
MB: Bogota is on the right track. I have seen and heard the mayor’s plans; however, the transition to full sustainability will not be easy or fast, that takes time. We can see this, for example, with the exclusive lanes for bicycles and even with the exclusive lanes for automobiles and pedestrians. The benefit for all should always be sought.
ENS: There is currently a project to implement a green corridor along Carrera Séptima in Bogotá. What benefits and repercussions in terms of mobility could this work bring?
MB: The main benefit that it could generate is that mobility will improve. However, this implies a very complicated challenge in terms of the space needed by pedestrians, who will surely be located in other parts of the city.
Likewise, this green corridor will bring quality to the space, it would be a quieter space to travel by bicycle. Another of the challenges is the future of transportation and the cars that travel through this race.
What I have been able to understand is that they are planning to send all this transport to another neighborhood to ensure that they also have their mobility space, but this can create a problem. It is a great challenge, but in the balance between benefits and negative repercussions, the benefits are greater.
ENS: Bogotá is considered “the world capital of the bike”. Based on your experience, what challenges does this recognition represent and what strategies should be implemented to continue improving the bicycle system in the city?
MB: The city has to continue facing the challenges from the creation of strategies to continue growing and improving the systems for bicycles. It is a challenge that is also an opportunity, it is about continuing to increase and make the road network for bicycles grow, maintain it and continue to build it, so that people can move to many different places. This has already happened in cities like Paris, New York and the Netherlands; So we have to continue facing the situation.
ENS: How can Bogotanos contribute to the sustainable mobility model?
MB: They can support sustainability or sustainable mobility. It is not an easy question to answer, but co-creation in Bogotá is very good. They must continue to support the projects and the district authorities must listen to the community, its needs, proposals and plans.
If you don’t understand what the community needs, it’s going to be very difficult to achieve and improve on this aspect. So the ideal thing is to be able to connect and share with the community, and be open to different ideas, to different areas, to different possibilities and understand that there is no single solution.
The Sustainable Mobility Week will go until next Friday, February 3. Thirteen renowned world-class experts will continue to learn first-hand about the projects that are being implemented in Bogotá, in order to contribute their knowledge in favor of the strengthening and development of mobility-friendly policies in the capital of Colombia.