Plans for Belo Horizonte, Brazil’s bike path network received a boost last month when Jesús Sánchez (ITDP Mexico), visited to lead a CicloCiudades course. An extension of the CicloCiudades program in Mexico, the course aims to give city planners the tools to develop comprehensive plans for a bike friendly city. The workshop was a concrete step in Belo Horizonte’s continued efforts to improve its cycling infrastructure.
The Ciclocoudades course brought together twenty-five of the city’s local cycle activists, city planners, and planners from the governments in Rio de Janeiro and Fortaleza. The diverse audience demonstrated Belo Horizonte’s commitment to involving civil society in the process as they develop more cycling plans. This partnership is strengthened by the city government’s weekly working group with cyclists to discuss plans and improvements.
At the Ciclociudades course, Jesús provided new tools and a fresh perspective to creating a cycling network, from emphasizing core concepts such as connectivity to asking participants to split into groups and map out their idea cycle network for the city. Still, Jesús emphasized that focusing too much on perfecting the planned network can detract attention and funding from the actual installation of the cycle lanes. His principal recommendation was for the city to pick a single design for bike lanes and implement it city-wide. The existing bike lanes in Belo Horizonte have been of inconsistent quality and design, with some bike lanes aligned on the right side of the road and others in the middle.
Beyond the course, Jesús and Victoria Broadus (ITDP Brazil) participated in several site visits with city planners and activists to discuss issues and improvements to the cycling network. With leaders of the municipal bike program, PedalaBH, and cycling organizations BH em Ciclo and Bike Anjo, Jesús and Victoria discussed plans for a new public bicycle system and biked the problematic downtown cycle tracks. Belo Horizonte has a goal of 380 kilometers of bike lanes by 2020, with 200 by 2016; there are currently 70 kilometers of cycle lanes and 12 kilometers under construction. To assist with these goals, ITDP is now preparing a formal report for BHTrans, the municipal transit authority, with analyses and suggestions for improving the city’s bikeability.