Gorillas! You think this an overstatement. To say the sidewalk is irregular is an understatement. It is an obstacle course. The surface changes from block to block to surprise the pedestrian, sometimes slippery tiles, sometimes rough undulating cement, and sometimes stone-studded stretches even young gorillas may not enjoy.
The first thing one expects in a sidewalk is its consistency. It should be about the same anywhere. Here variety, the most ferocious variety, is the name of the game. You would imagine a different contractor has designed and laid every 500-yard length of the sidewalk.
When the sidewalk ends on a street, you would think there would a gentle slope to let you walk on to the street. You have to search for the slope, for it is almost never aligned with the sidewalk. When you find it, it is often steep and takes careful negotiation. At other times, it is just not there. You have to jump eight or twelve inches from the sidewalk onto the street and then, on the other side, jump up another eight to twelve inches. It certainly improves your athletic finesse.
A broad swath of the sidewalk is sometimes marked out for bicyclists. I am all for bicycles and environmental awareness. But I am also for ordinary mortals who walk instead of riding plain or sophisticated, power-driven bicycles. Given the narrow sidewalks, the generous allowance for cyclists seems a stepmotherly view of hapless pedestrians. I have tried walking on the remnant of the sidewalk and found myself forced to intrude into the cyclists’ territory, simply because in some places the remaining sidewalk is covered by rubbish awaiting collection or equipment of a construction crew.
Unlike my native city, Washington, Bogota, despite its many varied restaurants, innumerable and inexpensive, does not seem to have many obese people. Thank heavens, I can pass by normal-sized citizens even on the narrow stretch of the sidewalk that the city allows me. I feel like bowing in salutation, for I admire their energy and forbearance in daily using a sidewalk that is unsuitable for humans and gorillas alike.
My father was probably right to say that walking is a good way to find out about a city. Bogota, full to gills with pleasant, friendly and thoughtful people, has a thoughtless administration that cares little for ordinary beings that go about their life and trade by walking on streets meant only for cars, and perhaps for cycles, but certainly not for ordinary humans. It is a city that smacks of an oligarchic bent, signaling it cares only for its well-heeled car drivers and has little thoughts for its simple pedestrians.