September 09, 2013

Improving Belo Horizonte’s Cycling Infrastructure

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Cycling on the sun-soaked streets of Belo Horizonte is on the rise. Although city officials have made a significant effort to build cycling infrastructure, cyclists have expressed concern about the network’s design and safety. On August 23rd and 24th, ITDP staffers Colin Hughes, Pedro Torres, and Victoria Broadus met with city planners and cycling activists to evaluate the city’s cycleways and discuss improvements moving forward.

Belo Horizonte, a city of 2.4 million people in Southeast Brazil, is working to become a more compact city and improve travel times for its residents. In addition to public transit improvements such as BRT construction, the city hopes to increase the percentage of trips made by bike from 0.7% to 7% in the coming years. The city has constructed nearly 145 kilometers of new cycle paths since 2011, and has plans to reach 380 kilometers by 2020. However, these paths have been criticized for being poorly designed and dangerous for cyclists, limiting their usefulness. In an effort to learn from past mistakes and improve the system, city representatives called upon ITDP Brazil to share best practices and strengthen relations with local cycling activists.

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On Friday, August 23rd, a delegation of cyclists and government representatives led ITDP staffers on a tour of Belo Horizonte’s hilly streets and cycle paths, familiarizing them with the local environment. The next morning, Colin Hughes gave a well-attended presentation of cycling planning lessons from San Francisco, another city whose steep slopes and narrow streets can prove challenging for implementing cycling infrastructure. The event brought together representatives from key groups, including members of several cycling associations and leaders from the municipal transit authority, the Empresa de Transportes e Trânsito de Belo Horizonte (BHTrans). Following the presentation, audience members participated in a productive debate that helped clarify how cyclists and government officials can work together to improve the city’s bikeability.

Building on the weekend’s progress, ITDP Brazil will be back in Belo Horizonte in October for a week of evaluation, training, and recommendations with Jesús Sánchez, an expert in non-motorized transport infrastructure from ITDP Mexico.

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