The Mexican city of Santiago De Querétaro has been yearning for bike-friendly infrastructure for years. Riding their bikes in an out-of-the-box “peaceful protest” between the streets of the former colonial city, Querétaro’s cyclists have been calling to reclaim their right to the road for years. “All our infrastructure here was constructed for cars, and we’re trying to show people there’s a better way,” says Gustavo Uribe, the cyclist leading hundreds of volunteers on Wednesday’s bike ride as part of the civil movement “Saca La Bici,” (Bring Out Your Bike.”) But there are some signs suggesting that things are about to change in the Mexican city.
The municipality of Querétaro has revealed a transportation plan outlining the city’s potential for embracing bike-share systems. Local officials have made statements implying the city’s ambition to integrate pedal-assist electric bikes in the system. Pedal electric or pedelec bicycles run on motors that use power generated from cyclists’ pedaling, reducing the effort needed to ride uphill or over difficult terrain. Pedelec bicycles may provide more incentive to people who wouldn’t normally ride bikes to take to two wheels, as it makes it easier for them to cycle. The city is planning to get its bike-sharing dream on solid Querétaro ground by January 2018.
However, ahead of the implementation, serious redesign and engineering must take place to the city’s infrastructure. Since fewer than 1% of daily trips are currently taken by bike, Querétaro lacks basic bike infrastructure. The roads are difficult for cycling, their terrain is hilly, and many streets are made out of cobblestones. All of that had convinced 90% of Querétaro locals that the city is not a safe place for biking.
Given the bike ridership statistics as opposed to those of the car ridership, Querétaro is in need of a bike revolution. The city’s population grew from 324,000 in 1980 to 880,000 in 2016, with an urban footprint that grew from about 2.8 square miles (7.25 square kilometers) to 40.2 square miles (104.1 square kilometers) – reflecting directly onto the city’s traffic.
Querétaro is not the first Mexican city to see a cycling revolution on its streets. In April 2016, Mexico City cyclists became able to map their trips on Google Maps using cycling routes, in what was then the latest addition to Google’s services in the Mexican capital. The function allows cyclists to see where the paths are as well as what kind of path it is based on color coding, with dark green meaning official bike lines with barriers to separate them from drivers, light green meaning lanes that are not separated from drivers, a dotted green line meaning streets where cyclists can bike, but which do not have designated bike lanes, and brown meaning dirt paths – often those adjacent to highways.
Across the pond in Cairo, poor infrastructure jeopardizes the safety of cyclists as they navigate the busy streets of the Egyptian capital. Just last week, Cairo’s governor signed a Memorandum of Understanding as part of the framework of the bike sharing project, “Bicicletta” (literally: Bicycle) funded and managed by UN-Habitat Egypt and the Zurich-based DROSOS Foundation. The project will pump around $1.43 million into the project to reduce barriers and increase opportunities by providing Cairenes, especially the youth, with an alternative mobility option through bike sharing.