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The Best Way to Get Around Traffic-Clogged Mexico City May Be on a Bike

Jason Margolis - PRI's The World
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March 19, 2014

When I told people in Mexico City that I wanted to go cycling, they offered a strong word of caution.

“It’s really scary,” said Ulises Escamilla, my interpreter in Mexico. “You know what, I’m going to walk.”

Escamilla offered a common perspective from non-cyclists. For active cyclists though, the city isn’t nearly so scary.

Every week, about 200 people go on a four-hour night ride through the city. They call themselves “The Bicitekas.” Ivan Sandoval heads the group. He said to call him “El Guajo,” The Turkey, because his friends say he looks like a turkey.

The Bicitekas ride in a pack for fun and also to raise the profile of cycling. El Guajo said they’re trying to create a more human city, to promote non-motorized transport.

He told me about a new commuting contest here between a car, public transportation, a motorcycle and a bicycle. He said they do it to show how fast the bike is. The bike always wins.

The Bicitekas aren’t saying Mexico City is cycling nirvana: They mark cycling deaths here by putting up “ghost bikes,” bike frames painted white, memorials for killed riders. Last year they built two — tragic, but still a very low number for a megacity.

It’s worth noting, the Bicitekas also ride at night when it’s safer. Monica Martinez, who was on the night ride, said drivers still act like they own the road.

“Taxis get angry,” said Martinez. “There have been a lot of accidents caused by a taxi.”

She, and others, say average drivers aren’t much better. You actually don’t need to pass an exam to get a license in Mexico City; testing so was corrupt they did away with it.

Despite it all, Martinez rides six miles, round trip, each day to work.

“It’s better because I don’t have to be in traffic and cars,” she said. Instead, she uses Mexico City’s new bike lanes. The city now has nearly 40 miles of these lanes, half of which was implemented last year, and plans for more. Concrete dividers separate bikes from cars.

From my experience, when I was cycling in a lane, I felt really safe and relaxed.

Read the rest at Public Radio International

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