Velo-city is an annual conference that brings together over 1000 transportation leaders, experts and advocates from around the globe to discuss how to increase cycling. The 2011 event was held in Seville, Spain during the last week in March. A delegation from ITDP’s Mexico office shared their experiences and lessoned learned from the political to the technical for how to grow cycling in Mexican cities.
Dhyana Quintanar and Xavier Treviño, presented “Lecciones aprendidas en ciudades Mexicanas”, or “Lessons learned in Mexican Cities”, in which they outlined three main elements to advancing cycling, learned from their experiences in Mexico City, León and Guadalajara. First, both governments and advocates must create the political environment in which change can happen. Today most decision makers see cycling as recreation, not transportation. They think on-street cycling is dangerous and requires separated greenways. We need to change these perceptions before we will win support for new projects. This means getting political officials to support cycling. It can also mean changing laws to make commuter cycling easier and more attractive. And it can also be done with partnering with other NGOs and helping create a larger chorus of voices in support of cycling. Second, no one tactic alone is enough. In Mexico City, for example, they have used a combination that includes activism, special events (like Sunday bicycle days), public bike systems and getting government commitments to expand bicycle infrastructure to advance bicycling. Finally, they talked about how having bicycles included in master plans or having a bicycle master plan is not enough. Plans stay on shelves or they can convey a false sense of fait accompli to the public. It is more important to figure out how to insert the bicycle into existing planning and construction frameworks in cities and winning bureaucratic commitments to creating projects. This may mean providing technical assistance and trainings to city agencies that are not used to doing bicycle projects. And this will require both the public and NGOs to hold governments accountable for creating better conditions for cycling. Seville was chosen by the European Cyclists’ Federation (ECF) for 2011 congress because it has been a model of how rapid expansion of the bicycle network and increase in bicycle mode share. In the last three years the city has installed nearly 100 miles of bike lanes between 2007 and 2009 and started a public bike share system. Their bicycle mode share has grown from 0.4% to nearly 7% from 2007 till today.