Went to CicloPaseo Cachaco 2014 in August in Bogota. Ciclo means bike and paseo means party; while Cachaco refers to the Bogotan gentleman and ladies from the 1950s, which are most easily characterized by their elegant dress style: bowler hat and trench coat for the gentlemen, and just resembles the dress in Europe at the same time. CicloPaseo Cachaco is a bike party where citizens put on nice outfit from the 50s to bike around the city: to reminiscent on the past, while promoting biking.
This is held in August to celebrate the birthday of Bogota, which was found 476 years ago on August 6, 1538. As a participant of the bike party, this for me shows the most beautiful side of Bogota, showing amazing parts of the city less visited, and brings out a kind and connected people, who are usually divided by socio-economic status and geography. A brilliant way to cultivate love and solidarity for the city.
As we biked towards the city center for the gathering place for the official start, we meet others who are going to the same event. We are easily identifiable: high heels, gloves and dresses for the ladies, and a nice, classic suit for the gentlemen is the norm. One of the main objectives of the event is to promote mobility, meaning that you can bike to and from work, and literally go anywhere with your bike, regardless of the outfit you are in. I started regretting my choice of dress once the cocktail dress, which had draped parts, started getting caught in the seat, but that was my own negligence to have pick that particular dress, almost any other one could have been fine.
At around noon, more than 1,000 of us gathered at the city center, waiting for the organizers to lead us into the destination which has remains secretive until that moment. People all look smart in their fancy outfits, and some got creative: I found a group of nuns, bishop, angels, who are playing church music, and spreading the scent of Frankincense. There are also newly weds in their wedding outfits for the event. After many photos, and with many pauses, we started following the organizers to bike towards the south, the economically deprived part of the city.
Bogota has a clear soci0-economic divide between the north and south. Most of the economically challenged parts are in the south, including many slum areas; and in the north is where you can find the rich neighbourhoods, restaurants, high-end shops and nice parks.
Through La Candelaria, the historical center of the city, we biked past an area categorized by the government as “zona roja”, red zone, which means it is dangerous to go to. This and the many other neighborhood in the south s are inhabited by the low-income community, and often considered unsafe to visit. Thus my peers from the event usually avoid it and would not step foot in there, some told me it was the first time they were in that particular area of the city.
As we biked through the streets, people from the neighourhood, who were spectating, were excited and happy to see us coming through, and cheered us on. Some parts of it was so packed with spectators and the cheering so loud that it seemed like the last stretch of a marathon. Most bikers were thrilled about the attention, waving to the spectators while visiting parts of their city, many for the first time. Both spectators and bikers took photos of each other.
The police, whom I have been told are not normally trusted, played an important role in maintaining order of the parade. On their bikes, they helped participants with any issues while some were on the motorcycle to control the traffic. Staff from Bogota Humana, under the mayor’s office to provide for different activities to help the community, were also on their bikes for support and helped with crowd control.
As the mid-point stop, we paused in front of a church, where people recharged themselves with yuca or cheese bread and icecream, before making our way back. We stopped in a bike training arena before slowly going back to the city centre. We had another stop in the main square Plaza de Bolivar, where tourists, llamas and pigeons mix with each other, before ascending to the final spot, a small park in front of Quinta de Bolivar, a 17th century colonial house by the country’s hero Simon Bolivar, who liberated the country from the Spanish. There, a historical tram and music awaited. Tram service does not currently exist in Bogota, but was available from 1884 to 1951, and the government has plans to bring it back for touristic reasons.
I have never seen a Bogota that is more beautiful: people were helpful, supportive, and it also brought me to a beautiful part of the city which I have never visited.
It was an effective way to connect the socially and economically divided community, an excellent way to visit a beautiful part of the city, and to make biking, a sustainable form of transportation, once considered a mode of transport by the poor, stylish and trendy. The event is only for one day each year, but hopefully the understanding and the impact could sustain beyond.
This was the fourth year of CicloPaseo Cachaco in Bogota. The first time was held August 27, 2011, where some 200 people took place. Participation has been increasing by the year to more than a thousand in 2014. CicloPaseo is also held in Beijing, China, Quito, Ecuador and several other cities around the world.