Thursday, May 21, 2009

Plan Verde : Green Projects in Mexico City Spinning Forward

- Tom Bertulis, ITDP, Mexico City

In a daring move, the Mayor of Mexico City is looking to leaving a legacy by launching an eco-action plan known as the “Plan Verde” (aka, the Green Plan, see http://www.jornada.unam.mx/2007/08/31/index.php?section=capital&article=035n1cap). The proposal includes expanding the “Hoy No Circula” program (where drivers are prohibited from using their car one weekday a week) and the replacement of 100% of Mexico City’s official vehicle fleet for cleaner models.

Part of the Plan Verde is the Bicycle Mobility Strategy, the most ambitious bicycle undertaking in Mexico City to date. Just recently 2,500 bicycles were purchased and will be given away free-of-charge to candidates that successfully complete a cycle training course here in Mexico City. I have never heard of a city giving away so many bicycles at a time, so that might be a first. The design of the bicycle is a practical yet trendy “Dutch bike” design with a low frame and upright riding position. These green commuter bikes come pre-equipped with a basket, bell, fenders, and reflectors to ride quickly, safely, comfortably, and stylishly in the city. (see photographs at http://www.itdp.org/index.php/projects/update/mexico_city_builds_first_bike_parking_facilities/)


Another development has been the installation of dozens of inverted-U shaped bike racks over the last few months and the city is on pace to install nearly 1,000 bicycle racks by the end of the year. That figure might not seem high, given that Chicago, a much smaller city, has over 10,000 inverted-U racks. However, well designed cycle stands are a rarity in Latin American cities. Even in Europe (with the UK being a notable exception) it was surprising to see so many “ribbon racks,” “wheel benders,” and other substandard examples of bike racks. Mexico City is learning from European mistakes and is installing the most cost-efficient and practical type of bike rack available. Moreover, they have built a cycle ramp leading to a subway station and there are plans to construct a large scale bicycle parking facility at an intermodal interchange.

Public bicycles, as most are aware, are still experiencing growing pains, and in Mexico City that is no exception. There are currently public bikes available at three sites in Mexico City, although they are similar to the older generation type of public bikes (think Copenhagen) rather than the new generation public bikes (read: Paris style.) They are practical, if somewhat ungainly, and free to use with a deposit of 200 pesos (about USD$15.) More information can be found at http://mejorenbici.wordpress.com. There is a plan to open a Vélib-style new generation public bicycle system this year, with Phase I calling for 1,500 bicycle at 111 stations, to be expanded in later years.

Mexico City is currently producing six cycling related manuals, on everything from cycling strategies to a cycling toolbox, to supplement their bike projects. People-scaled infrastructure projects are set to be implemented, including both shared space and segregated facilities, accommodating beginners and expert cyclists alike. The city’s first "30 km per hour Zone" is in its planning phases now and local neighborhood traffic calming projects are planned for all over the city. As a supplement, over 20km of segregated cycleways are set to be built in the city by the end of the year, with help from high profile consultants including Gehl Architects from Copenhagen (www.gehlarchitects.com) ensuring high quality cycle facilities. ITDP is helping with the aforementioned projects and is also looking at bigger picture issues for the city, such as motor vehicle circulation and car parking measures, which have profound impacts on overall livability.

Mexico City also has an extensive bicycle promotion program, with adverts splashed across all corners of the city, proclaiming such memorable slogans as “La Bici es el Futuro” (the Bicycle is the Future.) Learning from mistakes made by other cities, Mexico City is advancing leaps and bounds in endeavoring to transform the cycling culture in the city with a multi-pronged approach, which is sure to pay off dividends in the future.


Tom Bertulis, PE (Eyes on the Street in Mexico City)
Senior Technical Advisor
Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP)
Mexico City, Mexico
TomBertulis@gmail.com


Additional references:
http://www.vimeo.com/4062864 - Mexico City's Environmental Minister, Martha Delgado, defines her city's revolutionary green policy to address climate change, water shortage, transportation and other serious environmental challenges.

Photo credit: Jonas Hagen, ITDP

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