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Fuerza Bicicleta: Urban Biking in Latin America

Green Lifestyle  (tags: eco-friendly, green, environment, greenliving, health, healthy, sustainable, Sustainabililty, greenproducts, bikes, bicycles, commuting, travel, conservation, energy )

- 1018 days ago -
Bike-friendly cities and bike sharing programs are constituents of that class of ideas that sees to cross-pollinate from country to country, skipping surprisingly quickly from point to point on the globe.

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Michael O. (178)
Monday November 12, 2012, 7:49 pm
By Patrick McGinnis, New York-based investor and entrepreneur

It is almost hard to believe that it's only recently that urban planners and municipal leaders began to share enthusiasm for Copenhagenization, the idea of making cities far more bike friendly. With the advent of bike sharing programs in major metropolises such as Paris, London and Barcelona, every citizen of a city, whether that person owns a bike or not, is now a potential biker. As a result, bike safe and bike-centric urban programs have become highly relevant to a much larger audience.

I've been a staunch supporter of urban biking and bike sharing programs since I first rode a Velib in Paris in the summer of 2010 (and wrote about my misadventures for the Huffington Post). Over time, as I've discovered similar programs in London, Washington, D.C., Barcelona and Toronto, I've been amazed at how bike sharing transforms travel. Biking brings a traveler back to the street, up from the subway, and out from behind the windows of the taxi cab.

I've waited anxiously for bike sharing to come to New York City as I love the idea of injecting new humanity into the streets of Manhattan and Brooklyn. There will clearly be challenges as New Yorkers and tourists (yikes) all learn to share the roads, but the benefits to the environment, public health, and our wallets are indisputable. There are also surprising benefits to such programs that were probably not factored into their original design. How might a New York bike sharing program have eased the terrible strain of traffic in the days after Hurricane Sandy, at least in the parts of the city that still had power?

On recent trips through Latin America, I've been impressed to find that the region's metropolitan areas are embracing biker-centric public policy. To be honest, I was a bit surprised to find bike sharing in Buenos Aires and Mexico City. Having spent good amounts of time in both cities, I've seen enough unruly driving and traffic snarls to assume that no one would be crazy enough to brave those conditions on a bike. In fact, these very conditions make biker-centric urban policy particularly critical. Spend a few days sitting in persistant traffic jams in Lima, Bogota, or Mexico City, and biking suddenly seems like an obvious solution. With programs like Bicing in Buenos Aires, EcoBici in Mexico City and SAMBA in Rio, the leading metropolitan areas in the region are building the case for similar programs in other Latin cities.

In order to be successful, urban cycling requires a minimum of two initiatives. First, metropolitan areas must educate drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists, so that they co-exist safely. Second, cities must create dedicated cycling lanes. Building dedicated lanes is expensive and may be difficult to achieve on the clogged streets of Latin America, but in the long run, such lanes make sure that everyone plays nice together.

In the meant time, in the absence of widespread dedicated cycling lanes, cities in Latin America are making a concerted effort to encourage cycling. On Sundays, major thoroughfares in Bogota and Lima are closed for exclusive use by cyclists. Also, cities like Lima and Bogota have designed programs that allow citizens to use bikes for free by simply leaving an ID behind at a check-in desk. All said, it's encouraging to see Latin American cities embrace biking as well as the type of innovative thinking required to implement such programs. Latin America is rapidly changing its face to the world and is poised to take a greater role on the global stage. Why shouldn't it pedal its way forward as well?


Rose Becke (293)
Monday November 12, 2012, 8:26 pm
I went for a ride today

Past Member (0)
Monday November 12, 2012, 9:44 pm
I ride my bike to work 5 days a week it takes me 2 hours( to work and then home)1 hour each way

Michael O. (178)
Tuesday November 13, 2012, 4:20 am
Thanks for the comments, Rose and David!

I'm also a big fan of the bicycle. My climate does't allow for cycling year-round, except for the most hard-core enthusiasts, but weather permitting, I cycle to work as much as possible for nearly nine months of the year. It's about 45 minutes/13 km each way, so it keeps me in shape, saves me a lot of money on gas, and reduces air pollution. I also try to do most of my errands, i.e. grocery shopping, the same way.

Obviously, if you live too far away from your place of work, it's not an option, but if you do live close by, give it a try. Too many people have been conditioned to believe that a bicycle is a child's toy or that cycling is simply a recreational activity. Once you "grow up", an adult uses a car to get around. We need to break out of that mindset and start to see the bicycle as a viable transportation option, not to be ridiculed, but admired.

greenplanet e. (157)
Tuesday November 13, 2012, 7:59 pm
Awesome. We need safe biking lanes everywhere, and right-of-way for cyclists.

Carbon-free transport!. Yeah!

Robert O. (12)
Tuesday November 13, 2012, 9:13 pm
Very nice. Thanks Michael.

Virginia Esquer (8)
Tuesday November 13, 2012, 10:07 pm
i ride my bike everyday.

Monica D. (580)
Tuesday November 13, 2012, 10:23 pm
I agree with greenplanet - I'd like to see more safe cycle paths. Cycling is a good way to commute and is environmentally friendly.

Giana Peranio-Paz (406)
Wednesday November 14, 2012, 12:45 am
Thanks for the article. We have a problem here, cyclists get killed on the roads everyday because we don't have accomodations for them. Hardly any cycle paths. In many ways we are still a Third World country. We cry out about the problem but it seems that nothing is really done about. it. We are a very small country and I guess these needed paths would take up space, but if we have so many cyclists we must have cycle paths!
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