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Pandemic pushes Colombians to commute by bicycle

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Pandemic pushes Colombians to commute by bicycle

BOGOTA, Colombia — Luis Fernando Muete used to go to work on his metropolis’s crowded bus system. However he is been utilizing his bicycle rather more ceaselessly because the pandemic started.

It saves the gardener lengthy waits at a bus station in a poor neighborhood on the outskirts of the town. And it poses much less of a danger to his well being.

“With all that’s occurring, its higher to keep away from crowded locations,” Muete stated as he stopped at a site visitors mild on his solution to the town heart, carrying denims and a checkered shirt. “Utilizing a motorcycle is quick and low-cost.”

Biking has lengthy been a preferred sport in Colombia, the house of defending Tour de France champion Egan Bernal. However the pandemic is now pushing extra individuals to commute by bicycle within the South American nation, the place just one metropolis has a subway system and most of the people nonetheless go to work on buses or automobiles.

Within the capital of Bogota — a metropolis of 8 million, the place greater than 210,000 coronavirus infections have been reported — the elevated demand for brand new bicycles has left many retailers struggling to import extra inventory.

Bike Home, Colombia’s second largest bicycle importer, stated that its gross sales elevated by 150% in July. The corporate imported 16,400 bikes within the first semester of the 12 months — 4,000 greater than final 12 months — however stated it is already out of some fashions and it awaits new shipments from China.

Most bicycles worldwide are made in China, the place factories have struggled to maintain up with rising demand from Europe and the USA, additionally spurred by the pandemic.

“We’re most likely one of many final locations on their record,” stated Martha Cecilia Sanchez, the overall supervisor of Distrito Bike, a Bogota store that makes a speciality of promoting the Cannondale model. “It used to take 4 months for orders to reach. Now it takes eight months” she stated.

The small store stated it has been promoting round thirty bikes every weekend through the pandemic, whereas beforehand it offered 15 to twenty. Sanchez stated that current gross sales have been “higher than the Christmas season.”

Throughout the road, the Nissi bike retailer stated it had skilled an identical increase. It sells street bikes, mountain bikes, hybrids and even state-of-the-art bikes for time trials that value as a lot as a small automobile. It was promoting about 15 bikes a day earlier than the pandemic and now sells 25.

“Individuals are shopping for them to go to work, but in addition for pleasure” stated gross sales supervisor Juan Pablo Garces. “It is an ecological type of transport and can assist us to get automobiles off the streets.”

Native governments in Colombia are additionally encouraging bicycle use. Bogota Mayor Claudia Lopez turned site visitors lanes over to bicycles because the pandemic broke out, including 85 kilometers (53 miles) to the town’s community of motorbike paths.

Bogota was already a Latin American chief in bicycle use, registering about 880,000 journeys every day earlier than the pandemic.

In August, 13% of all journeys within the metropolis had been taken on bicycles in response to municipal authorities information, up from 10% in February. It is a modest improve, however officers anticipate the pattern will choose up as restrictions on the economic system are lifted and extra individuals return to work in places of work.

“Fifty-nine p.c of individuals we now have surveyed through the pandemic have stated they might transfer round on bikes if it was safer and if infrastructure improved,” Bogota’s Mobility Secretary Nicolas Estupiñan stated this week.

The town has mandated that public parking heaps develop areas for bicycles by 20% and refurbished paths that run alongside busy roads subsequent to automobiles, however its rising crime charges discourage bicycle use.

Police say 1,022 bicycles had been stolen in Bogota in July, nearly twice as many as in the identical month final 12 months. Typically thieves knock riders off their bicycles after they decelerate and assault victims with knives and weapons.

To make biking safer, the town has boosted registration campaigns for bicycles, improved lighting in harmful areas and elevated police presence at spots the place bicycle theft has occurred.

Cristian Gutierrez, a salesman at Class Bikes, stated his clients are nicely conscious of the safety state of affairs, with most looking for bicycles that promote from $150 to $250. “Folks do not need to purchase an costly bike and have it stolen” Gutierrez stated. “This metropolis remains to be a bit harmful.”

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