Sunday morning in Mexico City, when the capital’s main thoroughfareis closed to traffic, people come out by the thousands to walk their dogs, go jogging, and in particular, ride bicycles.
It’s just one of many initiatives implemented over the past two decades to boost cycling in one of the world’s most traffic-clogged cities.
“Due to the quantity of traffic in this city, it has become more efficient to ride a bicycle,” according to resident Arturo Ortiz. “Advancing 300 meters in a car could take forty minutes at rush hour, while you can cover that distance in two minutes on a bicycle.”
But it’s not just on Sundays that cyclists come out in force.
As a mode of transport, cycling has been promoted by the capital’s government since the turn of the century. Today, Mexico City has more than 170 kilometers of dedicated bicycle lanes, and some 250,000 citizens make use of the government-backed EcoBici rental program.
While cycling infrastructure may have improved, however, safety concerns are ever-present.
Roman Gabriel lost his daughter Monserrat in 2015, when she was killed in a cycling accident on Paseo de la Reforma.
“She was killed while riding in a cycle lane, but the city planning had put it next to a lane in which heavy goods vehicle could travel,” Gabriel said. “Nothing has been done to rectify this since her death.”
Monserrat’s case doesn’t stand alone. Official figures show an average of six cyclists die on the roads of Mexico City every year. Some safety advocates say the true number is much higher.
Areli Carreon, a leading campaigner for cycling, serves unofficially as Mexico City’s “bicycle mayor.” She says a cultural change in understanding is necessary.
“Bicycling has been seen for many years as a dangerous activity, but it’s not dangerous by itself. It’s dangerous when a big car, a very aggressive one, is around you. What we need is better places for doing this, as well as a public idea that this is needed, this is helpful, and this is something that people want to do.”
As more cyclists take to the roads of the capital, the authorities must work to ensure the safety of all who share the streets. Advocates have set a goal for 50 percent of all urban trips to be made on two wheels by 2030.