Bicycle Use Booming in Latin America

“I ride 43 km a day and I love it,” said Carlos Cantor in Bogotá, Colombia. “Five years ago I switched my car for a bike,” explained Tomás Fuenzalida from Santiago, Chile. They are both part of the burgeoning growth of cycling as a transport solution in Latin America.

But in the second-most urbanised region in the world, public sentiment towards bicycles is mixed, with some seeing them as a symbol of low socioeconomic status, says the “Biciciudades 2013” study by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) with regard to the expansion of this sustainable means of transport in large and medium-sized cities in the region.

The report, based on surveys and commissioned by the IDB’s Emerging and Sustainable Cities Initiative, found that between 0.4 and 10 percent of the population in the region use a bicycle as their main means of transportation.

Among the cities studied, Cochabamba in Bolivia heads the list, with 10 percent of the population depending on the bicycle. It is followed by La Paz, Bolivia, and Asunción, the Paraguayan capital, with five percent. All of these are intermediate cities with populations between 100,000 and two million people.

Among the big cities, in Santiago and Mexico City, three percent of the population use bicycles as their main means of transport, followed by Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina, and Bogotá, with two percent.

Bogotá is known as a world leader in bike paths, with 376 km of “ciclorutas” or dedicated lanes – one of the most extensive networks in the world – and 120 km of recreational paths. In addition, car traffic is cut on some streets on Sundays and holidays.

Santiago currently has 215 km of bike lanes, while there are 130 km of paths in adjacent rural municipalities. Greater Santiago is home to over five million people.

But bicycle use is growing nonetheless, like in greater Mexico City, which has a population of around 20 million. The most visible symbol of cycling in the Mexican capital is the Ecobici Individual Transportation System, which since its launch in 2010 has drawn 87,000 users of 4,000 bicycles at 275 stations along 22 km of paths. Users register and pay 31 dollars a year.

According to Ecociudades 2013, nearly all of the 18 intermediate and six large cities studied have bike lanes, with the exception of Asunción, Paraguay and Manizales, Colombia.

But only Bogotá, Buenos Aires, Mexico City, Asunción, La Paz and Montevideo – the capital of Uruguay – have regulations for urban cycling, as Rojas, the taxi driver, was calling for.

Source: Estrella Gutiérrez | IPS News