Santiago mayor Carolina Tohá recently unveiled the first step in her project to revolutionize transport in the Chilean capital: new free and secure bike stations for the city’s many eager cyclists.
Speaking at the opening of the newest bike racks, the mayor explained that this new initiative is just one part of her philosophy to reshape and improve how people get around in Santiago.
“We want to promote a transport system that is fair and democratic and where different forms of getting around are respected equally,” said Tohá. “This means better conditions for pedestrians, improving public transport and promoting cycling. One part of this is the two bike parking areas we’re opening today.”
Located in downtown Santiago, these first two new areas have a combined capacity of 120 and will soon be augmented by several more stations across the capital. By the end of the year, there will be over 400 free bike parking spaces in the city center alone.
Tohá explained that the initiative was just one of many seeking to make Santiago more cyclist-friendly.
“We want to promote several projects, some already under-way, such as weekend cycle routes, and a network of bike paths around [downtown Santiago],” said Tohá. “Also, in 2014 we want to set up a bike rental program.”
Weekend cycle routes have become commonplace in the capital. Several large avenues in Santiago are closed-off to cars and reserved for cyclists, joggers and those looking to enjoy a walk around the city, removed from the noise of traffic. Started in Santiago five years ago, the scheme has continued to grow and expand in popularity, with an estimated three thousand people making use of the original exercise route in Las Condes alone every Sunday.
Chile has also garnered acclaim for several social projects that use cycling to improve the lives of local citizens. In June, Recicleta, a program that refurbishes discarded bikes and sells them at low cost to people in need, and Macleta, a women’s cycling school, both won Cycling Visionary Awards in the Advocacy and Social Projects category at Velo-City, one of the largest annual bicycling conferences in the world.