Taking spaces from pedestrians is not a solution

In general, it is not desirable to take spaces from pedestrians to provide for cycling, nor to create cycling facilities that resemble the pavement.

Recently,  trench has been dug alongside the pavement in between Bellas Artes and Teresa Carreño Theatre in Caracas; more precisely, on the crowded pavement where traditionally artisans were placing their blankets and jewellery pieces to sell to passers-by and visitors.

Consideran que la bicicleta es un vehículo  y, como tal, debe ir por la calzada | Foto: Manuel Sardá

Eventually, this area will become a cycle path –mostly known in Caracas as ciclovía– which will connect Bellas Artes with Plaza Venezuela.

The problem is that planning works are far beyond the original project presented by the Architect and Urban Designer Tomás de la Barra, responsible for the previous design:  “The idea was to expand the pavement so that the ciclovía takes part of the road. With this new design, the pavement now is too narrow, artisans and pedestrians are completely excluded. I delivered the project months ago and I haven’ t had any contact with the Libertador City Council to know why they changed their minds…”

The Asamblea de Ciclismo Urbano of Caracas are movilising around the city to raise awareness of preserving passers-by spaces. “They have placed the ciclovía just on a pavement where there is a massive flow of passers-by. This is a critical call. Bikes are vehicles and they must be on the road”. Members of this association keep fighting to attract local authorities to reconsider a new exclusive lane for bikes.

Transport for London already have a pedestrian comfort guide [pdf], which could be used in this context to establish whether it might be acceptable to take space from pavements. Although Caracas and London have nothing in common, in terms of city regulations and involvement of Local Authorities, this document is based around the number of pedestrians, per minute, per metre of width. The graphic on page 13 explains the most relevant bit…

Venezuela is investing money in the construction of ciclovías in its cities. Local authorities are making an effort to promote bikes within the city, trying to reduce the use of private transport. Since 2012, they have built a few ciclovias; the first one in Bello Monte and recently in 2014, they inaugurated a new one alongside Avenida Bolivar, which was also built on the pavement, reducing spaces for pedestrians…

 

It is needed to create a consensus in between cyclists and local authorities so that education will be raised among the society.  Local Authorities need to listen and learn from the ones who care about the city. If Local authorities really want to improve their cities, they need to understand people’s needs, consult, listen and learn. Otherwise, it will all get worst.

I left Caracas 2 years ago and sadly, I am not living there any more. But looks like local authorities don’ t get it. They really don’t. By tracing these new plans, they affect the most vulnerable: Pedestrians. I guess cyclists want to be part of the mobility solution of the city, not a problem. Although I am far from Caracas, this saddens me.

If you want to read more about cyclist movement in Caracas, you can find more info here

 

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