Chile by bicycle

Two-wheeled, traffic-solving technology comes to Chile’s capital

As a new electric bike is launched in Santiago, we look at a market on the verge of taking off, and one which could solve one of the city’s most pressing issues. 

Friday, August 03, 2012 Category: Daily life - Sport - Culture
Biking in Santiago is fast gaining popularity. Photo: Janne Hellsten / Flickr Biking in Santiago is fast gaining popularity. Photo: Janne Hellsten / Flickr

Like many big cities around the world, Chile’s capital has a big problem with traffic. But a growing group of Chilean and international entrepreneurs are starting to put to practice the age-old business adage: “for every problem there is an opportunity.”


Capitalizing on a growing culture of gung-ho cyclists that has taken root in Santiago are several affordable bike rental programs, some of which, like La Bicicleta Verde and Paseos en Bicicleta, also offer city tours by bike.


The good news for Santiago is that as more and more cyclists take to the streets, more infrastructure is being rolled out to accommodate them - now bike paths are a regular part of many of the city’s major parks and accompany a network of key streets that traverse them.


It’s into this emerging market that the futuristic YikeBike, has been launched as an electronic bicycle that promises a green energy revolution in transportation.


Created and developed in New Zealand, the YikeBike is simple to drive and small enough to compress and carry in a handbag - a pocket rocket which its developers hope will forever change how mass urban transport is handled in big cities.


But it’s not just emerging companies that are trying to change the car-oriented culture of the city, grassroots movements are taking to the streets as part of the push to make Santiago a more bike-friendly place.


Perhaps the most head turning of these is the clothing-option critical mass demonstrations on the first Tuesday of every month, where mobs of cyclists take to the busiest of streets of the capital in everything from tweed to birthday suits!


And these emerging companies, entrepreneurs and citizen groups are not just making the city greener, but more beautiful everyday.


Because one of the most striking things about Santiago is also the cause of one its biggest problems: the Andes mountains that form a striking background of the city and the coastal ranges that separate it from the Pacific ocean, not only create a spectacular setting for the city, but also form a natural bowl that traps car emissions.


Which is just one more reason to get on board Chile’s booming bicycle scene.

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