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‘Bicycle Mayor’ Program Shows Promise in Mexico City


FILE - Cyclists gather to form a shape of a bicycle with the aim of promoting cycling as a mode of transport and to commemorate Bicycle Day, which is celebrated April 19 annually, at Zocalo square in Mexico City, Mexico, April 10, 2016.

Her position is not official, but Areli Carreon of Mexico City is a “mayor.”

She may be the “bicycle mayor,” but to her it is an important position.

She works to make people in one of the world’s most congested cities more interested in riding bicycles.

Carreon works with a group based in Amsterdam called CycleSpace. The group says it wants 50 percent of all trips made in cities to be made by bike by the year 2030.

There are “mayors” like Carreon in seven cities around the world, including Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Sydney, Australia; and Baroda, India. More cities are expected to “inaugurate” mayors soon.

Amsterdam’s “mayor” is Anna Luten. She said the organization’s goal will “make cities livable again by integrating bikes.” And, more bikes will make it easier for the remaining cars to get around.

However, Carreon says the cycling program will do more than just make daily trips to work or the market easier. When a disaster strikes, like the recent earthquake that shook Mexico City, cyclists may be among the first to get out and look for survivors.

Carreon and 1,000 other cyclists helped identify buildings where people might be trapped. They were able to travel on streets littered with rubble more easily than larger vehicles. The cyclists also may be able to bring tools and supplies to rescue teams.

Carreon said bicycles “served as an emergency breathing system for the city.” And she noted that, no matter how bad the roads were, bicycles were the fastest way to move around.

A man rides a bicycle past a church dome which collapsed in an earthquake is seen in Axochiapan, near Mexico City, Mexico September 29, 2017. REUTERS/Henry Romero
A man rides a bicycle past a church dome which collapsed in an earthquake is seen in Axochiapan, near Mexico City, Mexico September 29, 2017. REUTERS/Henry Romero

There are already a lot of cyclists in downtown Mexico City. Two hundred fifty thousand are members of a bike-sharing program that offers 6,000 bicycles at 450 parking stands.

But riding in the city can be dangerous.

Around the city, the white-painted outlines of bicycles can be found on the streets. These markers show where cyclists have been killed in traffic accidents.

As the bicycle “mayor,” Carreon wants Mexico City to reduce the number of cycling deaths each year, and increase the availability of bike lanes to 340 kilometers.

She would also like to see people who live in the outer parts of the city use bicycles more often. Carreon says rich people can move around Mexico City without much trouble, but poor people might spend four hours walking to and from work.

As the “mayor,” Carreon has a lot of work to due to publicize the projects she is working on. She delayed an event that was planned before the earthquake. But she thinks the way cyclists of Mexico City were able to help after the earthquake may have been the best publicity of all.

“At the city’s worst moment, we were there,” she said.

I’m Ashley Thompson.

Dan Friedell adapted this story for Learning English based on a report by Reuters. Mario Ritter was the editor.

What do you think of the plans in Mexico City? We want to know. Write to us in the Comments Section or on our Facebook page.

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Words in This Story

inaugurate– v. to introduce (someone, such as a newly elected official) into a job or position with a formal ceremony

integrate– v. to make (something) a part of another larger thing

litter– v. to cover (a surface) with many things in an untidy way

rubble– n. broken pieces of stone, brick, etc., from walls or buildings that have fallen

publicize– v. to give information about (something) to the public

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