Santiago on two wheels
Spotlight on bicycles in Chile’s road to development
Gears are set in motion for Chile to evolve from developing to developed nation within the decade; on the way, the humble two-wheeler is taking center stage.
Monday, May 09, 2011
The city hosts tourist favorites like La Bicicleta Verde.
“The triumph of the bicycle” is in the works at Chile’s Transportation Ministry, according to Chilean magazine Qué Pasa, and the ministry is looking abroad for examples.
In late 2010, Chile invited Danish exhibition Sueños Sobre Ruedas – or Dreams on Wheels – to showcase the features of bicycle culture in Denmark.
One European feature that Santiago hopes to incorporate? More places to rent bicycles in the capital. While the city hosts tourist favorites like La Bicicleta Verde, urban planners say the city needs to incorporate more bicycle rental shops for the daily commuter and casual resident biker.
And while the capital city hosts 100 miles (162 km) of bike paths, the government has promised to reach more than 420 miles (690 km) by 2012, as well as improve connections between neighborhoods and connections with public transportation. Cyclists can download a current map of bike paths, or ciclovías, here, or check out the new interactive bike map by citizen organization Centro de Bicicultura.
Aside from the Centro de Bicicultura, Santiago is alive and well with bicycle culture and advocates. Thousands of cyclists met on February 1 to celebrate Critical Mass, a worldwide event to promote bicycling. Urban cycling organizations like Arriba ‘e la Chancha offer workshops for cyclists who want to repair their own bikes, and the organization Recicleta is a good source of news and information as well as cheap used bikes.
The bicycle is also on the minds of Congressional representatives in Valparaíso: earlier this month, a group of representatives presented a bill to promote bicycles by offering tax benefits for bicycle imports.
One of the bill’s sponsors, Congressman Pedro Brown, said, “We believe it’s necessary to encourage alternative means of transportation in order to protect and support the environment of our planet and above all, our country. It seems to us like one way of achieving this is to establish tax benefits for non-polluting means of transport, like the bicycle.”