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Latin America’s urban cycling culture: A model for other regions?

Copyrights: Gabo G./Shutterstock

Latin America’s urban cycling culture: A model for other regions?

The movement towards sustainable and active transport has transformed cities around South America.

Whenever one thinks of urban cycling, cities like Amsterdam and Copenhagen come to mind. But what about Bogotá, Buenos Aires, Santiago or Mexico City? Some of these urban agglomerations are starting to call themselves “World Cycling Capitals,” a claim that usually coincides with the adoption of bicycle-friendly public policies and investments.

In 2015, Leticia Ferreiro from World Bank described how Latin Americans had “fallen in love – once and again – with their bicycles.” This movement has grown even stronger since then, partly thanks to the exponential growth of bike-sharing systems, e-bikes and other forms of micro-mobility.

Many Latin American cities have a chronic issue with traffic. In 2018, the INRIX Global Traffic Scorecard ranked Colombia’s capital city of Bogotá as the third most congested city in the world, followed by Mexico City (fourth) and São Paulo (fifth). The study calculated that drivers in Bogotá spend up to 272 hours stuck in traffic every year.

On 15 December 1974, city officials gave US-educated architect Jaime Ortiz Mariño and over 5,000 fellow bicycle enthusiasts permission to shut down traffic on 12km of roadways and ride their bicycles freely through the centre of Bogotá for three hours. This marked the birth of Ciclovía, a movement that started as a citizen protest and has progressively turned into a celebration: today, Ciclovía is largely perceived as a weekly opportunity for local residents to reclaim urban space and promote alternatives to the private car.


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Leszek J. Sibilski and Felipe Targa


Wednesday, October 30, 2019 - 11:35