Green living

New car-free street in Chile’s capital open for outdoor fun

A new 3 mile (4.4 km) stretch of Santiago is now closed to traffic every Sunday, allowing thousands of people move freely through the streets to exercise.

Thursday, June 27, 2013  
Enjoying the streets of Santiago on the new Providencia CicloRecreoVía. Photo courtesy of CicloRecre Enjoying the streets of Santiago on the new Providencia CicloRecreoVía. Photo courtesy of CicloRecreoVía/Facebook.

 

Santiago has been offering a car-free street route in the Los Condes neighborhood every Sunday for nearly five years. But now this innovative outdoor recreation system has expanded, giving runners, bikers, skaters, and families the ability to enjoy a new 3 mile (4.4 km) stretch of roadway in the Providencia neighborhood on the weekend. The two car-free streets even overlap, giving residents the option of taking on a 4.6 mile (7.5 km) trek across northeast Santiago every Sunday.

The new “T” shaped circuit, named the Providencia CicloRecreoVía, includes about 15 blocks of Av. Pocuro between Antonia Vararas and Tobalaba, and about 15 blocks of Av. Ricardo Lyon between Av. Andrés Bello and Pocuro.

By giving priority access to families and athletes, Providencia CicloRecreoVía aims to give citizens the opportunity to enjoy the open streets of Santiago and to connect with their neighbors. According to CicloRecreoVía organizers, about 3,000 people already utilize the Los Condes CicloRecreoVía each Sunday, and the new route is on track to become just as popular.

The new car-free lane in Providencia will be open every Sunday from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., and feature 60 volunteer traffic guards stationed along the circuit, first aid stations, bike service booths, water, and other activities provided by the municipality of Providencia.

Residents who live along the car-free route can enter and leave their homes by vehicle whenever they wish, but are asked to do so slowly and to use the CicloRecreoVía only when necessary.

Providencia Mayor Josefa Errázuriz has been thrilled with the route’s popularity so far, which is contributing to a happier and healthier Santiago.

"We are very pleased that we have seen entire families bike riding together, young people jogging with dogs, children skating, and our neighbors happy and excited to be using two emblematic streets without cars. This is part of the cultural change we want to make to create a happier Providencia," Mayor Errázuriz said in a statement.

The mayor also stressed that in addition to promoting exercise and community building, the new route is bringing attention to the importance of creating infrastructure for bicycle commuters.

"Bicycling is not only a means of recreation but is also a means of transportation. We hope in the future to strengthen public transportation and build an interconnected system of bike paths, allowing us to address congestion in Santiago,” he said. “We are imagining a great Santiago connected by bike paths,”

Plans are already underway for expanding the successful CicloRecreoVías program. Organizers are hoping to create new circuits in Puente Alto, Pedro Aguirre Cerda and 11 other municipalities. The ultimate, innovative goal is to one day form a single metropolitan-wide car-free street network with the capacity to serve 500,000 people every Sunday of the year.