We’ve all heard plenty about the diamond-crusted bike lanes of Copenhagen and Amsterdam, but there are Bike Commuters in every country: from Krygyzstan, France, Japan, Portugal, to Mexico! Ever since last year’s renegade DIY bike lane campaign in Mexico, Mr. Blue Jay on my shoulder has been hinting at a full-scale “Bike Revolution” for our southerly neighbors. The quotation marks in the title and opening sentence of this post are mos DEF finger quotes, in case you were wondering.
Anyhoo-hoo, as I am the self-crowned hyperbolic exaggeration queen among BikeCommuters staff writers, I thought it would be fun to dive into some articles and investigate these predictions – Will Mexican Cyclists rally together carrying AK’s and demanding a ban on cars forever!? Will they fill the capitol city with Guerrilla bike lanes, painting over anyone who stands in their way?! Depende de que…
Since the closest I’ve ever been to Mexico City is this Del Taco in San Diego, I will rely on the BBC to relay the ¿Que Paso? (yay for upside-down punctuation!) with their article titled Mexico City’s Bike Revolution.
Families riding bikes, children on roller skates and barely a car in sight; it’s hard to believe this is usually one of the busiest roads in Mexico City.
It’s an eerily calm Sunday morning on the city’s Avenida Reforma, an avenue which is grid-locked on weekdays by tens of thousands of cars sitting bumper-to-bumper.
The Reforma’s closure to car traffic on Sundays in 2007 kickstarted the capital’s attempts to make life easier for cyclists. In 2010 a 17km-long bike lane through the city opened – and more efforts to promote pedal power are being unveiled in the coming few months.
DF officials have proclaimed that kilome-miles of bike lanes are on the books for Mexico, accompanying their successful weekly car-traffic shut downs. On top of piles of bike lanes, Mexico City’s bike share program called “EcoBici” has been a huge hit in the heart of the city – expect expansions, cycle peoples! Let’s hope all those rollerblading fun-having Sunday joyriders easily transition into sweaty weekday bike commuters as the government continues to support transportation cycling. Here’s a video clip from Metro Planning Chicago showing EcoBicis cruising in a separated bike lane along Avenida de la Reforma:
Chicago’s Metropolitan Planning Council had a chance to visit this year to discover the successes of Mexico City’s transit and cycling initiatives; see details of the encounter comparing Mexico City’s transit plans to Chicago’s in this post from The Connector. The popularity of the EcoBici system is unfounded in Mexico… could this be the “Bike Revolution” bloggers have been predicting?
Mexico City’s system, EcoBici, debuted in 2010 in the trendy Condesa neighborhood. It was quickly expanded down the wide, skyscraper-lined Avenida de la Reforma to connect Condesa with the Zocalo (main square) and the historic center of the city. The system was instantly popular, not only in the morning and evening rush hours, but also at midday, when many office workers now elect to ride to lunch. For a short time, demand exceeded supply and there was a waiting list to become a member. EcoBici now has 90 stations and 1,200 bikes, plenty to meet the current demand from its 24,000 members (who take some 9,000 trips every day). It will soon expand to cover two more neighborhoods, with 275 total stations and nearly 4,000 bikes. When that expansion is completed later this year, EcoBici expects to serve 73,000 users and 27,500 trips every day.
Writers from Streetsblog also toured Mexico City to observe the so-called “Bike Revolution.” The cycle-loving mayor of the Captiol, Mayor Ebrard, promised over 300 kilometers of bike lanes for the city by the end of his term. The promise has not been kept, but the Mayor is making a concerted effort to quell the angry fists of cyclists with EcoBici bike share and the legislature:
In 2010, the city passed a package of bike-friendly laws. Most prominently, Mexico City repealed its mandatory helmet law on the grounds that it was discouraging cycling and leaving everyone in greater danger. “It’s safer for them to cycle, whether they have a helmet or not,” argued Montiel.
At the same time, Mexico City reduced speed limits in areas with traffic calming or heavy pedestrian traffic and hiked up the penalty for driving or parking in a bike lane.
Though cycling has made significant strides over the last five years, its position in Mexico City is hardly assured. Last year, a prominent radio host, Angel Verdugo, called on his afternoon listeners to “crush” the “red plague” of cyclists — to literally run them over. Verdugo was fired, but the moment revealed the ferocity of anti-cycling sentiment that seems to persist in some quarters of the city.
The political winds could shift after Mayor Ebrard leaves office this year. “It’s an election year,” he said, “so we have to complete every project in the city, for Ecobici, for the bike lanes.” Some of the candidates for mayor this year, he implied, might not be so bike-friendly.
I guess the traffic-congested “mean streets” of Mexico City, and A-hole radio personalities will just add fuel to the flames as transportation cycling continues to pick up in Mexico. Full blown Bike Revolution? Maybe… in the meantime, the progress is commendable! I want Sunday traffic shutdowns in my city! Pedal forward… Cycle Ladies & Gents. Adios!