Cycling to be made even easier for Chile’s commuters

New, free bicycle parking lots in highly populated area of Santiago will encourage commuters to drop gas guzzlers in favor of pedal power.

Santiago’s cyclists will soon be able to secure their bikes without charge before jumping on the bus or metro. Photo by Santiago Rent a Bike / Facebook page.
Santiago’s cyclists will soon be able to secure their bikes without charge before jumping on the bus or metro. Photo by Santiago Rent a Bike / Facebook page.

Santiago is becoming more bicycle-friendly by the day. An increasing number of cycle lanes accommodate an ever burgeoning flow of both commuter and recreational riders, which is not only great news for congestion but also for the environment. Fewer cars means fewer emissions and the health benefits from pedalling as opposed to driving are not to be overlooked.

Chile’s government is taking the considerations of cyclists more seriously and currently investing in a system that will enable travelers to utilize a number of different forms of transportation in one journey, with emphasis on the humble bicycle.

Plans are underway to create a bicycle parking lot — complete with CCTV, high security and surveillance booths — for a total of 700 bikes in Santiago’s La Florida district, one of the most populous areas in the city. Cars blocking the roads during rush hour in this spot is far from rare so government officials have decided to act.

“One of the key ideas of this project is to lower the number of cars in La Florida,” said La Florida’s Mayor, Rodolfo Carter. “Riding bicycles saves time and the free parking lot will allow commuters to take other means of public transport, such as the Metro and bus.”

The overall plan is for ‘Intermodal passenger transport’, which refers to combining the strengths of various transportation forms in one single journey while reducing dependence on cars and increasing the use of public transport in the meantime.

The idea is to encourage commuters to set off from their homes on bicycles and ride to the new lot where they can leave their zero-emission two-wheelers before catching the Metro or bus, safe in the knowledge their bikes are secure. Theoretically this should limit traffic in the La Florida area while promoting the use of public transport — a win-win situation.

Building work is expected to get underway next month on the US$2 million (120 million pesos) project with a view to adding a further 300 parking spaces in the future. Talks to incorporate ‘friendly zones’ into the La Florida area are also in progress where vehicles will only be permitted to travel 18 mph to make the road safer for pedestrians and cyclists.

“We are developing road infrastructure, strengthening the network of cycle paths to make the roads better for cyclists,” said Carter.

Santiago was voted the sixth best city for bicycle tourism by UK website Hostelbookers. The website considered several important factors in its survey, including bicycle-friendly lodging and services as well as overall geography. Santiago came in strong in all three categories to climb to the sixth position on a list that included Mexico City, Buenos Aires, Amsterdam, Copenhagen and Berlin.