Gabriel Garcia Marquez on Bogota’s “Cycling Fever”

Back when the recently deceased Nobel laureate Gabriel Garcia Marquez was a journalist for El Espectador in 1955, he reported on the scofflaw cyclists who endangered ordinary citizens.

Bogota Cycling Fever

“Rampant cycling fever and especially reckless cycling plaguing the city in recent days has led to numerous accidents because of the Tour of Colombia bicycle race,” reports Marquez. “These urban cyclists take to the streets, convinced that they can race like [famed Colombian bike racer] Ramon Hoyos. It’s almost like driving while intoxicated – and can result in a fatal accident.”

He continues:

“The Department of Traffic and Transportation in Bogota, alarmed by the rising tide of bicycle accidents, has launched a program to soundly beat back the irregularities in cycling. Police Motorcycle Lieutenants Alejandro Ceron and Roberto Acosta have worked twenty-four hours just to punish these irregular cyclists. They have seized around 300 bicycles.”

Marquez lists the infractions that resulted in seized bikes in the name of “safety”: riding without a bicycle registration tag, riding without a bicycle license, and riding through a zone where bikes are restricted.

Umm, yeah. That’s what I thought, too.

In addition to his gripes about the 1950s equivalent of Lycra louts and unregulated bicycle rental businesses and sales, Marquez thought it “alarming” and “disturbing” that Bogota’s Department of Transportation had only 500 bicycle licenses on file, while an estimated 150,000 people rode on city streets.

You can read his original article in Spanish at El Espectador: La fiebre del ciclismo” en Bogotá.

Mike Ceaser, who runs Bogota Bike Tours, compares the then-and-now of bicycle conditions in Bogota, noting that things have apparently improved dramatically since Bogota police cracked down on a five year old children for riding their trikes without a license.