Mexico City: bicycle brigades to the rescue

**This is a guest blog post, written by Cynthia Menéndez, manager of WWF’s Sustainable Cities programme in México, including México’s participation in WWF’s One Planet City Challenge (or in Spanish: Desafío de Ciudades de WWF).

Color, culture and diversity in Mexico’s largest city

As one of the biggest cities in the world, Mexico City is full of life, color and culture. It is a diverse, vibrant city, with a growing number of people of different beliefs, religions and interests. It’s hard to be bored in this city, thanks to an endless offer of restaurants, museums and leisure activities.

Unfortunately, other characteristics make it difficult to call sustainable. With a population of over 25 million and an increasing number of cars (over 7 million registered in the metropolitan area) producing over a million trips per day, the city faces serious congestion, air quality and road safety problems.

Urban Climate Action

There have been notable efforts to tackle this situation at government and social levels. From the government side, different public policies have been adopted. Mexico City was the first in the country to implement an official Climate Action Program,  which contributed to Mexico City becoming the national winner of WWF’s One Planet City Challenge (formerly Earth Hour City Challenge). This Program comprises 69 mitigation and adaptation actions, including sustainable mobility actions. Since the Program was established in 2014, together with the Ministries of Environment and Mobility, there has been a considerable increase in non-motorized transport options, including: pedestrian streets, public bike systems, bike lanes and parking, as well as local regulations that prioritize non-motorized transport.  Mexico City’s principal avenue (Reforma) is now also closed to cars every Sunday.

Mexico bike 2
Photo: gacetademexico.com

Cycle Lifelines as Disaster Relief

Civil society actions have also proved effective. This was evident after the terrible earthquake that hit the city in September 2017. Mexicans proved organized, working in solidarity. In the hours following the quake, while the city’s conventional transport grid was paralyzed, the most efficient vehicle to move across the city was by bike. It didn’t take long for biking groups to organize and move provisions, supplies and tools where most needed. Despite the lack of electricity, the rain and chaos, bikes continued operating, making evident how sustainable (and crucial) this mode of transport is.

Mexico bike
Photo: Héctor Ríos

While on the right path, there’s still a long way to go before Mexico City becomes a truly sustainable city. The horrible earthquake provided the opportunity to reevaluate how the city is built. We can identify ways to construct climate robust infrastructure, improve urban mobility and boost the quality of life. And not only for those directly affected by the quake; but for all the city’s inhabitants. Mexico City has great potential to increase its resilience, and a space for its inhabitants to continue to create urban sustainable actions, also in the light of climate change risks.

And in the words of Cynthia: “I’m looking forward to being a part of that transformation!”

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Feature photo at top: Andalusia Knoll Soloff (found on NBC News)

 

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