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News Article

COVID-19: An Opportunity for Bikes in Mexico City?

By Peter Appleby | Tue, 05/26/2020 - 18:25

The popularity of bikes is skyrocketing in various cities around the world as commuters look to avoid public transport in the post-COVID-19 world. The pandemic has offered Mexico City a chance to improve its bicycle infrastructure and help lessen stress on public services while reducing the virus’ spread. Is it now the time for the two-wheeled stallion?

In cities in the US, Australia and the UK, bike sales have jumped in the last few months. According to the BBC, bike stores in London are struggling to keep up with demand while in Sydney, stores have seen weekend sales quadruple. “We are the new toilet paper and everyone wants a piece,” Giant’s Sydney store manager told The Guardian.

In June, Mexico will begin reopening its economy and Mexico City will follow sometime after. When it does, the transport system that usually supports 8.62 million journey’s per day will provide the perfect method for the virus to spread.

Groups like the Alcaldia de la Bicicleta Ciudad de Mexico are offering suggestions on ways to promote the use of bikes in Mexico City to reduce the stress on a busy public transport system and take cars off the roads. In March, the group published a proposal for the construction of 131km of temporary cycle paths around the capital, noting that the bike “represents one of the cleanest forms of transport for the prevention of the spread of the virus” and can “help people maintain physical activity without compromising their own health or that of other people.”

The MORENA-led Mexico City government has prioritized bike use on roads, says SinEmbargo, alongside local governments in Guadalajara, Monterrey and Puebla. The arrival of private bicycle sharing services like Mobike alongside the city-run ECOBICI scheme have helped improve the visibility of cyclists in recent years.

But concerns around the safety of cycling could prove a roadblock for the popularity of the bike. SinEmbargo this month noted that “protection measures and the application of road use guidelines, as well as places to park bicycles without fear of theft” are the concerns that road users have.

Former Deputy Minister of Planning at SEMOVI Laura Ballasteros previously told Mexico Infrastructure and Sustainability Review that “road safety must remain a strategic priority in mobility planning for the next (this) administration.”

Mexico City is ranked 13th in the world in the TomTom Traffic Index 2019. Aside from COVID-19 concerns, the city routinely sees dangerous levels of air pollution due to the saturation of vehicles. Long queues outside of metro and bus stations are common. Concerns around the spread of COVID-19 and inclinations of citizens in other major cities could suggest that this is the perfect time to advance the bike’s place in Mexico’s transport system.

Peter Appleby Peter Appleby Journalist and Industry Analyst