Wednesday, October 7, 2015

A Sound Project?

On this rotunda, or traffic island, at the frantic corner of Carrera 3 and Calle 19, the city plans to install the city's first audible artwork.

At a public information meeting held this evening in La Candelaria, I asked a functionary how in the
Can you hear it?
world anybody would here the noises amidst the honking cars, yelling drivers and roaring buses.

"That's the challenge," the functionary admitted.

And yes, it will be a challenge, perhaps an insurmountable one.

At the end of each hour, the artwork is supposed to project the sounds of birds tweating toward two neighboring spots across multiple lanes or traffic: the entrance to the Las Aguas TransMilenio station and the sidewalk in front of the Colombo-Americano center. That begs the question of why they don't instead install loudspeakers in the sidewalk at these spots. The answer: This is art.

Other challenges will include the dogs and homeless people who inhabit the spot and aren't great respecters of artwork.

Quite a spot for a soundwork.
Work is projected to start in about 15 days and last about a month, so expect the installation to be finished by year's end - if they hurry.

The work, to be called 'Scene Under Construction,' is by Oswaldo Maciá, a Cartagena native who lives in London. Maciá's was selected from among 72 proposals for the spot. It is Bogotá's first 'sonic sculpture.'
By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

A Dusty Demolishing

Dust rising over the city center, seen from La Concordia.
Mount Vesuvius erupting in Bogotá? Not quite. This afternoon, the city demolished a building
Future or fantasy? The planned Estacion Central.
located in a delapidated area a few blocks west of the Colpatria Tower. The plan is to build a huge transit/office/housing/retail complex there named Estación Central.

Hopefully, the project will actually happen, and not fall victim to corruption, budget cuts or diverting of funds to the monumentally expensive subway fantasy.

Meanwhile, if only there were a way to knock down buildings without generating huge dust clouds, which must inject billions of tiny particles into the air.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

Monday, October 5, 2015

Bogotá, Outstanding in Traffic

A massive traffic jam on Calle 26 in central Bogotá.
The traffic app Waze has given Bogotá yet another outstanding rating, but this one is a measure of the
city's urban pain. According to Waze, Bogotá is the worst - yes, the very worst - place to drive of all the cities it evaluates. And Colombia is one of the worst nations in the world.

And the situation is fated to get lots worse, thanks to the boom in private cars. That's unless the government adopts unpopular policies such as hiking the price of gasoline or instituting a congestion charge. But politicians haven't shown the courage for those things.

Interestingly, European nations with high gasoline prices and high rates of bike commuting, such as Belgium and the Netherlands are ranked as good places to drive - showing that policies promoting 'alternative' transit actually benefit car addicts, as well.

Colombia, a bad place for drivers, and Venezuela (where gas is almost free) is even worse.

Would getting more folks onto bicycles mean fewer cars clogging the roads?

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Megateo's Lesson

Megateo and an EPL banner.
Megateo, the criminal gang leader reported killed yesterday, along with five bodyguards, by Colombian military, was no run-of-the-mill criminal.

Megateo, 39, whose real name is Víctor Ramón Navarro, is a holdout - or holdover - from a little-remembered guerrilla group called the EPL, or Popular Liberation Army, which officially demobilized in 1991.

The EPL, founded in 1967 by dissidents of the Colombian Communist Party, adopted an ideology inspired by Mao Tse Tung and later by the Stalinist Enver Hoxha, leader of Communist Albania. Such a closed and extremist ideology didn't seem very promising, and wasn't. The EPL never expanded much beyond its base in El Norte de Santander Department. In 1991, most of the EPL's members signed a peace accord with the government and transformed themselves into the Hope, Peace and Liberty political party, whose initials conveniently are EPL.

Following the demobilization, the EPL political party experienced a genocide which anticipated the
Megateo and troops.
better-remembered killing of the Union Patriotica political party members about the same time. But in contrast to the UP members, who were murdered by right-wing groups linked to the government, the EPL members were killed by EPL holdouts and members of the leftist ELN and FARC guerrilla groups, who considered them traitors.

That history has been conveniently forgotten by today's guerrillas, who often call themselves victims of right-wing and government violence.

In 1994, Megateo became the leader of the EPL holdouts, and transformed his band into pure criminals and narcotraffickers with ideological pretentions. A similar thing happened after the paramilitaries' own demobilization, when many incorporated into vicious, drug-trafficking criminal bands called Bacrim.

Megateo's story is a reminder that peace processes, like the one now underway with the FARC, often don't end the violence, especially when there's illegal drug money to be made.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

A Lesson from Abortion Protesters

Abortion opponents have been holding this protest/vigil recently beside the Iglesia Santa Ana in Teusaquillo, which is surrounded by women's clinics with a reputation for providing mostly illicit abortions.

A women's clinic across
from the Santa Ana church.
In the past, I've seen anti-abortions protests outside the Palacio de Justicia and Congreso, when they have considered abortion law. Colombia's abortion law, while relatively liberal for the region, is still quite restrictive (abortion is permitted only in cases of rape, incest, when the woman's life is endangered and when the fetus is inviable, and often hard to obtain even in those cases). Abortion rights supporters say that, either despite or because of the law, nearly all of the procedures performed in Colombia are done illegally.

So, it always seemed a bit absurd to me to see the protesters at the centers of lawmaking, when the law was obviously so irrelevent to reality.

This is the first time I've seen protesters at the of abortions. Yet, by protesting here, they're also underlining the fact that abortion prohibitions feed an outlaw, and often dangerous, illicit abortion industry.
The campaign is named '40 Days for Life.'

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

Thursday, October 1, 2015

They Can't Have It Both Ways

Celebrate: Gas got cheaper.
El Tiempo continues its campaign for cheap gasoline today with its report that 'Colombia is one of the nations where people 'sweat' more to buy gasoline.'

The numbers compare the price of gasoline to the average income, but forget to mention that that
average wage earner probably does not own a car, and so does not directly buy gasoline, but does suffer the impacts of cheaper fuel in the form of pollution, massive traffic jams and worse services in schools when gasoline is not taxed or even subsidized, as it is in Colombia.
What cheap gas gets you.

El Tiempo gives good coverage to problems like traffic congestion, global warming and, even, sometimes, air pollution. So, how does it choose to ignore the fact that the cheap gasoline it so desires contributes to all of those problems? Perhaps because the wealthy people who run El Tiempo all drive around in private cars and because the paper's owner, Luis Carlos Sarmiento, Colombia's richest man, who owns banking, cargo and construction companies, profits, at least in the short term, from cheap fuel.

In fact, Colombia has quite cheap gasoline compared to other nations in the region. Neighbors Ecuador and Venezuela, whose gas is cheaper, are driving themselves broke by subsidizing fuel.

Those who run El Tiempo should think of their city's and nation's real interests instead of just their own.

Colombian gasoline is quite cheap for the region.
By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

Monday, September 28, 2015

Maximum Garbage?

One tire on its way to the dump.
Take a look at the drama going on on Calle 24, behind the Central Cemetery, to get a feel for the absurdity - or nonexistence - of Bogotá's solid waste policy.

One by one, city workers are dropping old tires from windows or rolling them out of doors, then loading them into trucks to drive them an our outside the city...where they'll be dumped into a 'tire cemetery.' And they'll be at it for a good deal longer, judging from the piles of tires remaining inside the buildings.

The fate of used tires has been an ongoing crisis in Bogotá, especially since about a year ago, when an illegal tire dump caught fire, spewing toxic smoke which turned the city's air grey for days. City leaders vowed to take action...and held a series of meetings with tire industry representatives, which have come to nothing.

And another tire.
Of course the meetings came to nothing. The tire industry doesn't want to bother itself with the cost and trouble of the disposal of its products. And god forbid that the city would force them to. After all, that might create a precedent and make the producers of styrofoam containers, plastic bottles, cigarrettes, plastic bags and the innumerable other products which litter our streets, clog rivers and fill landfills fear that they too might have to take responsibility for the impacts of their products.

No need to observe that other cities have confronted these problems with deposit systems. But Mayor Petro persists with his fantasy that a p.r. campaign accomplish the same here. (Perhaps Petro doesn't want to offend the industrial interests which he hopes will support his campaign for president. God forbid.)

In fact, the tires were dumped into these vacant buildings by the city's UAESP, which is supposed to handle recycling, and whose slogan is 'Basura Cero' but should be 'Basura Maxima.' Now, these tires will sit in a dump where they might catch fire. And the tire avalanche continues, with no solution.

A few more left inside.
The best guarded tires in town.
Workers are walling up the buildings. Displaced people occupied one of them last week, exposing the illegal tire dump.
Sure thing.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours