If you’ve ever visited Mexico City, you know that it isn’t exactly a model of sustainability. It faces serious environmental challenges, including water shortages, smog, waste disposal problems, and traffic congestion.
But Mexico City Mayor Marcelo Ebrard is at least trying to steer the urban behemoth in a more sustainable direction. In 2007, Ebrard launched an ambitious 15-year eco-action policy called “Plan Verde” (Green Plan) to address many of the city’s woes. Taking lessons from Bogota, Columbia, Plan Verde is addressing city transit issues, in part, with bikes. The capital’s Bicycle Master Plan aims to increase bicycle trips to 5% of daily trips made in the city by 2012.
To start, the city purchased 2,500 bicycles to give free to residents who complete a bicycle safety course. The bikes are city-friendly with a low frame for men and women, a basket, fenders, a rack, a bell, and reflectors.
Of course with more bike traffic, you need more bike infrastructure. The city has added hundreds of U-shaped bike racks around the city. The first sets have been added in the city center–the Zocalo–with more on the way in key areas such as Avenida de los Insurgentes and in parks like Chapultepec, Mexico City’s main park.
Bike-ramps and parking facilities are being added around the city, and over 20km of designated bike paths with protective barriers will be built by the end of this year, including a 10-kilometer stretch along the Paseo de la Reforma, a main road through the city. The Bike Master Plan has the goal of 300 km (186 miles) of new paths by 2012.
In addition, a privately-funded bicycle-sharing program is complementing the city’s efforts. Currently, through Mejor En Bici (Better on Bicycle), the city has 3 stations where users can take a bicycle for free when they register and leave an ID and a 200-peso deposit ($20), which they get back when they return the bike. Over a hundred more stations are planned.
Like Bogota’s Ciclovia, Mexico City has “Muevete en Bici” every Sunday from 8am-2pm, when certain main avenues are closed to cars. In addition, every last Sunday of the month the city has the “Cicloton Familiar,” which closes 32km of the city’s streets. The city loans loans bicycles, hosts hydration stations, and doctors are on hand in the event of injuries.
The Institute for Transportation and Development Policy has been working with the city to develop the Bicycle Master Plan. Ultimately, bicycling will become safer, more attractive, healthier, and more convenient as a way to travel through the city.
Even the mayor, who lives in the south part of the city, is occasionally seen bicycling to work in the Zocalo.
Stay tuned for additional posts on other aspects of Mexico City’s ambitious Green Plan (Plan Verde).
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