Is a Bolivian City Considering a Law Requiring Residents to Bike?

While some legislators in the United States want to keep cyclists off the roads, a city in Bolivia is taking the opposite tack. Cochabamba, population 700,000, is actually considering a law requiring that residents make use of bicycles to help preserve the environment and improve public health, according to reports.

Reports say Cochabamba, Bolivia, is considering legislation that would require residents to bike once a week to reduce pollution and promote public health. Photo: ##http://road.cc/content/news/96009-city-bolivia-passes-law-making-it-compulsory-ride-bikes## Roads.cc##

Richard Masoner at Cyclelicious dug up this story, first circulated as an editorial on Spanish language Reddit, then carried by news site Road.cc. Masoner cautions that it has been somewhat difficult to confirm, but here is the report:

Councillor Beatriz Zegarra for the city of Cochabamba, Bolivia introduced a proposal to mandate bicycle use at least one day per week for city residents to reduce pollution and preserve the Corazón de la Madre Tierra. Zegarra’s proposal has gone through the city’s urban development committee (“Comision Segundo“) and apparently moves on for full council consideration sometime soon, although it’s not on the agenda for tonight’s city council agenda.

I can’t find official city information available on the official city website, so I don’t know the actual text of the bill. The “news” repeated from road.cc comes from an editorial. I don’t hablo espanol too well and I’d be really surprised if Google Translate can catch Bolivian idioms, so I’m sure we’re missing out on nuances in the Spanish language editorial. Does obligar really mean “force” in Bolivian Spanish? Did the opinion writer purposefully select a misleading and perhaps emotionally charged word that might not exist in the actual bill presented to city council?

According to Road.cc, the law also proposes bike infrastructure and parking improvements.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Reno Rambler explains how the bicycle has long been a symbol of political and cultural resistance. NRDC Switchboard reports the government shutdown is holding up transportation projects all over the country. And Vibrant Bay Area says the most important part of aging in place is having a quality place to age.

  • Will Wittenberg

    this is pretty interesting from a legal perspective. Even if the law is legally viable, how could it possibly be enforced?

  • BlueFairlane

    Masoner is right to question the part of this involving the word “obligar.” I’d be surprised if the intention of the bill is to literally force people onto a bicycle. More likely, I think, is that the bill would prohibit automobile traffic, and the editorial Masoner read took that to mean people would be forced onto bikes. I’d withhold judgement until a copy of the bill is produced.

  • Joe R.

    I tend to think the bill might indeed mean that one day a week automobile traffic is prohibited. As much as I like bicycles, I don’t see how we can literally force people to use them. I don’t see any reason why should, either. A bicycle has enough inherent benefits for most people to voluntarily use it if we create the proper set of conditions.

  • Anonymous

    The article cited on Road.cc is a straight news story, not an editorial; rather, the paper itself is called Opinión, “Opinion,” much like LA Opinión, the Spanish-language daily here in Los Angeles (and the largest Spanish-language daily in the country). From what I can tell, the “Ley de la Bicicleta” (lit. the Law of the Bicycle) is something between our Bike Plans and our Vehicle Codes. The law does not obligate citizens to use their bikes once a week; rather, “obligar” is used here in the sense of the second definition in the Royal Academy of Spanish dictionary, “to win someone’s support with beneficial acts or persuasion” (http://lema.rae.es/drae/?val=obligar). The article goes on to say that the law gives attention to building a cycling highway, bicycle parking in public and private institutions, and bicycle education.
    Article (Spanish): http://www.opinion.com.bo/opinion/articulos/2013/1005/noticias.php?id=107883

  • Jack Jackson

    shouldn’t Bolivian cities worry first about providing basic utilities

  • BobaFuct

    Didn’t Beijing do something similar during the Olympics? Basically, certain license plate number sequences were allowed on the roads on certain days of the week, or some such (e.g. even number plates allowed to drive M/W/F)…effectively forcing people to rely on bikes/transit for whatever days they weren’t allowed to drive.

  • Anonymous

    The same way speed limits, pedestrian right of way and aggressive driving laws are enforced stateside….barely.

  • sahra

    The idea behind the law is to encourage people to take up bicycling once a week. It isn’t about forcing people to commute that way, but to perhaps make one trip by bike. It is talked about as a “norma,” meaning, I assume, that it would not be an enforceable law but rather a norm intended to raise folks’ consciousness regarding pollution and change the predominant car culture. The story cited here was repeated word-for-word on several news websites, which makes me think it was probably a press release directly from the lawmakers. Cochabamba is not a particularly bike-y city at the moment, even though they do have some infrastructure and on their Day of the Pedestrian and Cyclist (celebrated twice a year, I think), the streets are flooded with bicycles. It also sounds like they’re using the law as a potential launch pad for the creation of more bike-friendly infrastructure and parking in both public and private spaces, as well as offering more education for drivers in schools.

  • Kev

    Bolivian cities do provide basic utilities.

  • Lisa Markuson

    This is weird but I am so into it!

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