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Mexico City Netizens Celebrate World Bicycle Day

In Mexico City, bicycle riding is a fast, easy and cheap way to get around in some of the busiest neighborhoods. It is common to see people from all ages riding their bikes, especially on Sunday mornings when City Hall closes major roads to give the right of way to cyclists.

Due to the lack of a “cycling” culture, this scenario was unthinkable a few years ago, when the few people who used bicycles as a common way of transportation would get funny looks as if using this type of transportation was some sort of a suicidal activity. “Cars go first, then humans,” was the popular way of thinking.

Today, April 19, on World Bicycle Day, blogger David Saenz compares [es] Mexico's cycling culture to that in countries like Holland and Denmark:

El 19 de abril se celebra el Día Mundial de la Bicicleta. ¿Es necesario recordar los beneficios que produce este medio de transporte para el propio usuario y para la sociedad en general? Quizá en países como Holanda o Dinamarca no haga falta recordarlo. Pero sí en España, México, Francia, Italia, Reino Unido… donde, especialmente en las grandes ciudades, los coches son los amos de la ciudad.

April 19 is when we celebrate World Bicycle Day. Do I need to recall the benefits of this model of transportation for individual users and society in general? Perhaps in countries like Holland and Denmark, there is not need for this reminder. But in Spain, Mexico, France, Italy, the United Kingdom…especially in large cities, cars are the owners of the city.

Ecobici, Mexico City. Photo by Flickr user Alex Marduk (CC BY 2.0)

In Mexico City, the individual urban bicycle transportation system called “Ecobici” was implemented in 2010. It supplements the public transportation network with 85 bicycle stations distributed in popular spots around the city.

The blog Animal Político describes [es] how the Ecobici program wants to celebrate World Bicycle Day by setting a record in the number of users:

Para festejar este día, Ecobici llama a sus 31 mil usuarios registrados (sólo 28 mil 100 activos) a usar hoy más que nunca una de las mil 200 bicis del sistema a fin de romper el récord de 10 mil viajes en un día.

Para el domingo, Ecobici también invita a un Rally por la Tierra , claro en bici.

Como dato curioso, destaca que es el miércoles el día de mayor uso del sistema Ecobici, seguido de lunes, martes, jueves, viernes y sábado, mientras que el domingo es el que menos se utiliza.

To celebrate this day, Ecobici called its 31,000 registered users (only 28,100 are active users) to use one of the 2oo,000 bikes from the system more than ever today to break the record of 10,000 trips a day.

For Sunday, Ecobici also invites citizens to a Rally for the Earth, on bikes, of course.

A curious fact is that Wednesday is the day that the Ecobici system is more widely used, followed by Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, while Sunday is the day the system is least used.

Even if it sounds like an ideal program, not every cyclist in Mexico City supports it. In the blog Prosa Poderosa (“Powerful Prose” an anonymous blogger explains [es] why he is against the “Ecobici” strategy:

Para decirlo bien claro, aplaudo la iniciativa de la Ecobici, pero me declaro en contra de los paseos ciclistas.
Me declaro en contra porque no me parece que un paseo dominical sea un aporte para educar a las futuras generaciones de ciclistas, que tendrán que usar la bicicleta como un medio de transporte, tal vez de manera obligatoria. El error de la estrategia (si se le puede llamar así a algo de lo que no se pensaron las consecuencias) de organizar paseos ciclistas consiste en que la gente asociará inevitablemente la bicicleta con actividades recreativas, de ocio o de ejercicio, no de transporte serio.

To put it clearly, I applaud the Ecobici initiative, but I am against the organized cycling rides.

I am against them because I don't think an organized Sunday ride is a contribution to educating future generations of cyclists, who will have to use the bicycle as a means of transportation, perhaps on a compulsory basis. The mistake of the current strategy (if you can call it a strategy, since consequences were not considered) to organize bicycle rides is that people will inevitably associate bikes with recreation, leisure and exercise, not as a serious means of transportation.

He continues:

Para reforzar el estigma “recreativo” de la bicicleta, éste se implanta en la memoria de los usuarios desde que van a comprarse una bicicleta, ya que estas suelen encontrarse junto a un kayac o una caminadora, en la sección de deportes de los almacenes comerciales.

Si ya era difícil desligar a la bicicleta de su ambiguo estatus de estorbo de las calles o de paria del tránsito, los paseos ciclistas no mejorarán esa imagen, ni harán que sus usuarios tomen plena consciencia de que las bicicleta es un vehículo sujetos a las mismas reglas de los automóviles. Y los ciclistas tampoco conseguirán el respeto que exigen de los conductores de otros vehículos.

To reinforce the stigma of ‘recreational’ cycling, it is implanted in the minds of users since the time of purchasing a bicycle, as these are usually found next to a kayak or a treadmill, in the sports section of department stores .

If it was already difficult enough to separate the bike from its ambiguous status as a street obstruction or a traffic pariah, these organized rides will not improve that image, nor will users become aware that the bicycle is a vehicle subject to the same rules that cars are subject to. Nor will cyclists get the respect they demand from drivers of other vehicles.

On Twitter, Mexican cyclists also expressed their concerns on World Bicycle Day. Cesar Toledo (@CessarAndroid) [es] wrote about how he feels every time he rides a bike:

#YoAndoenBici y arriesgo la vida porque no nos respetan los conductores

# YoAndoenBici (“I ride a bike”) and risk my life because drivers do not respect us

Mexico City's Government (@GobiernoDF) [es] also used Twitter to inform citizens of the progress of cycling route “20 de Noviembre”:

Presenta un avance del 80% construcción de la #Ciclovia20DeNoviembre. Fomentará el uso cotidiano, masivo y seguro de la #Bicicleta

The building of cycling route “20 de Noviembre” has advanced by 80%. It will encourage the daily, massive and safe use of the #bicycle

Finally, the hashtag #HistoriasDeBicicleta (“Bicycle stories”) has become popular throughout the day as users narrate their cycling adventures in 140 characters.

  • Rogelio Rivera-Nava

    Hi, dear fellows at Global Voices,

    I write the blog “Prosa poderosa”. Thanks for reusing my opinion.

    I’d like to make one thing clear: I’m an user of the Ecobici system and really love it. So the written words in your site doesn’t reflect exactly what I mentioned:
    -“Even if it sounds like an ideal program, not every cyclist in Mexico City supports it. In the blog Prosa Poderosa (”Powerful Prose” an anonymous blogger explains [es] why he is against the “Ecobici” strategy”.

    My words make it clear I support the Ecobici initiative. I’m not against it. What I don’t support are the Sunday morning recreational rides (“especially on Sunday mornings when City Hall closes major roads to gives the right of way to cyclists”, as your article explains). Find bellow what I wrote:
    -“To put it clearly, I applaud the Ecobici initiative, but I am against the organized cycling rides”.

    My apologies if my description wasn’t clear enough.

    P.S. 1: Your web site is really nice. It’s already in my favorites. Great work!
    P.S. 2: Somewhere in my blog, my name appears: Rogelio Rivera-Nava (I’m not anonymous).

  • Pingback: This week in Global Voices Latin America/Esta semana en Global Voices Latinoamérica « Silvia Viñas

  • Pingback: Día de la bicicleta, tiempo de ganarse el respeto | Rogelio Rivera Nava [Roke]

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