On Monday, Marcelo Ebrad, the Mayor of Mexico City, and other high-ranking officials cycled to work to show their support for a cleaner, more humanized city. Although it was a time of relatively low traffic – they made their trip at the beginning of Holy Week – the officials braved rain and cars to make a powerful point about reclaiming Mexico City’s streets. A flat city originally built on a former lake, Mexico City has the ideal landscape for cycling; bikers can pedal for miles without ever breaking a sweat. Yet since the 1950s, “Chilangos,” as inhabitants of the city are affectionately known, have put the bicycle aside in favor of motorized transport. Since then, the precipitous growth of the city, along with the number of automobiles, has left the streets clogged with cars and the air fouled by pollution.
For the last five years, EMBARQ and its Center for Sustainable Transport in Mexico City have promoted non-motorized forms of transportation like walking and cycling to make the city more socially and environmentally friendly. But nothing helps our work more than a clear demonstration of support from the mayor himself.
A similar gesture by Enrique Peñalosa, the former mayor of Bogotá, Colombia, who also cycled to work often, illustrated that much more than symbolism is at stake. Thanks to Mr. Peñalosa’s leadership, Bogotá now has one of the most sophisticated public transportation systems in the world. What’s more, during Peñalosa’s tenure, Bogotá made important investments in cycling paths and bridges which have been vital to the revitalization of the city.
Now it’s Mexico City’s turn to transform its public transportation system. By biking to work, and encouraging others to follow suit, the Mayor has sent a strong signal that the city is moving in the right direction.
Special thanks to Jonathan Talbot.