From 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Sunday, the Colombian capital of Bogotá shuts down 75 miles of streets and highways, handing them over to cyclists, runners and walkers. Known as La Ciclovía, the initiative has inspired similar events across the world.
Despite its often choking traffic, Bogotá is one of the most bike-friendly cities in the world. Not only is it home to the Cicloruta—the most extensive bicycle path network in Latin America—it also has a weekly event known as La Ciclovía.
The origins of La Ciclovía date back to 1974 when the first event took place. And after the second event in 1976, a mayoral decree established La Ciclovía as an official program of the city government, initially with four routes.
The program experienced some setbacks from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s, but the wheels really began turning in 1995, when the route was expanded from 13 miles to 75 miles. Since then, La Ciclovía has gone from strength to strength.
Every Sunday between 7 a.m. and 2 p.m., more than one million people come to cycle, jog, skate and walk along the car-free roads. Serious cyclists pass by strolling pensioners; kids skate alongside Sunday dog walkers; and city-dwellers of all ages get to jog and run through various neighborhoods of Bogotá, all connected by La Ciclovía.
But not everyone loves La Ciclovía. Many business owners complain about the loss of sales during La Ciclovía, and drivers frequently moan about the inconvenience of driving on a Sunday. Their complaints, however, largely fall on deaf ears. La Ciclovía has become a much-loved program, with about one-quarter of the city’s population making use of it every Sunday.
As one of the world’s most successful mass recreation events, La Ciclovía has caught the attention of other countries, inspiring similar initiatives across the world. Ciclovías have sprung up in numerous countries, including in Peru, Chile, and Argentina; in Australia, Mexico and India; and in various cities in Canada and the United States.