Post by Dr. Jennifer Mindell
In Bogotá, Colombia, one of the main roads is closed to traffic for miles on one side of the dual carriageway every Sunday morning and lunchtime for ‘Ciclovía’. Think of Euston Road or Princess Road or your local main road with motor vehicles restricted to one side of the central reservation and thousands of people walking, jogging, cycling, skateboarding, and rollerblading in a two-way stream on the other side of the road. People of all ages take part, including babies being pushed in buggies and young children learning to ride a bike.
It is not only an excellent, and safe, way to be physically active. There is also a sense of fun and of community that is hard to explain. I started out by walking on the pavement, where I was an observer. It felt quite different as a participant, when I walked in the road along with the cyclists and other pedestrians.
Concern is often expressed in the UK about unsegregated, shared use paths. Some pedestrians say they feel threatened by cyclists; some cyclists express frustration about people in their way. Participants in Ciclovía travelled at a wide range of speeds. I saw none of that – no friction, no conflicts. People went at the speed they wanted to, when they could, steering a careful path around people who went more slowly (which might include pedestrians and joggers navigating past slow cyclists). The only problem is that for those not participating who tried to cross the road, the speed and volume of non-motorised traffic could be a problem! There were plenty of signalised junctions but people’s preferred route is often directly across the road, wherever they happen to be.
What would happen if Seven Sisters Road in Woodberry Down, or the Finchley Road, were closed to motor vehicles on one side of the dual carriageway for a few hours every Sunday?