The use of the bicycle as a means of transport does not only commit the citizens to their health and well-being by favoring the weekly physical activity hours proposed by the World Health Organization (WHO), but also improves mobility problems in large cities as are the Latin Americans.
Traditionally associated to the rural transportation of farmers in countries like Colombia, bicycles are gaining importance in terms of urban planning and transportation also in the urban settings. Increasingly, cities are adopting policies related to infraestructure development and healthier urban habits.
According to a study carried out by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the Latin American cities where bicycles are most used are Bogotá (Colombia) and Rosario (Argentina); However, great progress has also been made in Mexico City, Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro in terms of biciclel-inclusive policies. According to the IDB report, Bogotá is one of the cities best positioned in terms of number of bike rides reported per day (611,472) and exclusive lines for cyclists (392 km); although Sao Paulo is the city with the largest coverage of public bicycles (4 bicycles per 10,000 inhabitants).
Pressure from civil society has been important in demanding bicycle paths, parking lots and other spaces suitable for bicycles in the Americas. In Montevideo (Uruguay) for example, initiatives such as Gente en Bici and Ciclovida Urbana have been able to mobilize more than 10,000 people to demand from the government a better infrastructure in a city where there are only 35.9kms of bike paths, according to the study of the IDB.
However, the creation of infrastructure and the use of it in Latin America does not always coincide. According to the aforementioned IDB study, there are cities like Lima where, with 141 kms of bike paths, that use less than 0.3% of them (compared to 5% in Bogotá). The opposite occurs in the Argentinian city of Mendoza, where 2.1% of daily commutes occur by bicycle, but the city has only 12 km of bike paths.
The international health campaign to promote the use of bicycles as an active means of transport has been progressing in most countries of Latin America. The increase in the urban population worldwide and the sedentary lifestyles associated with it are some of the reasons why it is necessary to motivate the physical activity of citizens and a healthier life. The health and mobility policies associated with the growth of the infrastructure necessary to have cities prepared for mass transport by bicycle are increasingly common in our continent.
The use of bicycles as a means of transport is also a useful tool for mobility and urbanism policies developed by cities, since it allows solving transport problems associated with urban density and the use of private vehicles. The replacement of private vehicles by bicycles can reduce the levels of air pollution and noise, thus improving the quality of life in cities and reducing the diseases associated with these risk factors.
By: Laura Delgado