Why not do what they do in Bogota, and have a ciclovia every Sunday?

Hudson's Corner

October 14, 2011|By Kathy Hudson

Happily, ciclovias have become a seasonal occurrence in Roland Park. Ciclovia IV happens on Sunday, October 23, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., from Northern Parkway to Cold Spring Lane.

Southbound Roland Avenue will be closed to cars, so half of that boulevard, the spine of the community, will be wide open to cyclists, skaters, strollers, runners and walkers. As in past ciclovias, a few kids on pogo sticks and stilts may also bounce and lope along.

Every ciclovia grows bigger. More and more people come out to exercise and visit with neighbors, not just from Roland Park but from all over the city. New features are added each time. This Sunday a children's bike rodeo takes place from 10 a.m. to noon.

Hopefully, Baltimore will soon embrace the concept that originated in Bogotá, Columbia, and close a network of streets, maybe from Lake Montebello to Druid Hill Park. Ideally, ciclovias should happen as they do in Bogotá, every Sunday.

According to a film by Streetfilms, 2 million people in Bogotá enjoy 70 miles of roadway every Sunday from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Cities in Mexico, Venezuela, Chile, France, Canada and California now organize and support regular ciclovias.

I am envious. I would love to walk some other closed-to-cars, wide and picturesque streets in Baltimore with others from around the city. It would be good for city morale. It would be good for mixing things up racially and economically. It would promote exercise and business.

Ciclovias benefit neighborhoods and citizens. They draw tourists. With roads closed, ciclovias are a safe way to explore the architecture and natural beauty of a place. Ciclovias feel like 21st century fairs. Food, drink and sports vendors participate. In Bogotá, about 20 areas are set up for recreovias, where recreational spots offer a range of group activities from rumba lessons to aerobics classes. There are musicians, jugglers and dancers. Free bikes are available in Bogotá parks.

I am thinking of riding a bike at Ciclovia IV. I have always walked before, but I think I am ready for a bike. This summer, I rented one at the beach. I was a little wobbly at first, but after 15 minutes, I was back to my pre-teen speed, this time supervised by my younger sister, who was afraid I would fall off. I did not, and we had a great time exploring.

My sister has just moved. She does not have room for three bikes in her new basement. Maybe I could try one during the ciclovia, store it on our sun porch and use it again. Riding in the street normally makes me nervous, but plenty of scenic lanes thread through Roland Park.

The ciclovia would be a good start to a new form of winter exercise. The hard part will be not stopping to talk to friends, at least half of the fun of a ciclovia. Maybe I'll ride first, check out the booths by the library and my bike tires at Joe's Bikes station. I'll bike a few laps up and down Roland, then stash the bike at home and return to walk, visit and eat.

I'll enjoy a hot dog and brownies in front of St. David's, where the youth group will again raise funds for its outreach trip to Honduras. I'll stop and sample what Eddie's and Classic Catering have to offer. I'll stop a dozen more times to visit with friends coming from other neighborhoods. I am hoping some city officials will be on hand, so I can urge them to push for a citywide ciclovia.

If a city can help organize a Grand Prix for race cars, a city can also help organize an environmental-friendly, health-promoting, cross-town ciclovia.

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