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Green activists paint guerrilla cycle lane

By George Webster, CNN
December 1, 2011 -- Updated 1555 GMT (2355 HKT)
A group of urban activists paint an unauthorized "wikilane" cycle path in the middle of Mexico City. A group of urban activists paint an unauthorized "wikilane" cycle path in the middle of Mexico City.
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How to paint your own cycle path
How to paint your own cycle path
How to paint your own cycle path
How to paint your own cycle path
How to paint your own cycle path
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A group of urban activists have painted an unauthorized cycle path in Mexico City
  • Part of a campaign to encourage legislators to fund more non-motorized transport
  • The city spends 80% of transport budget on automobile infrastructure, according to local pressure group
  • Mexico City applauded in recent years for public bicycle scheme and other initiatives

(CNN) -- A group of urban activists have painted a "guerrilla" cycle lane along a busy stretch of road in the center of Mexico City.

The group who call themselves the Make Your City Collective say they took matters into their own hands after local government stalled on its promise to build 300 kilometers of cycle lanes by the end of 2012.

"There is a national campaign calling for legislators to allocate at least 5% of the transport budget to non-motorized infrastructure, so we painted a bike lane in front of congress to help promote it," said Jimena Veloz, a member of the Make Your City Collective.

The unauthorized five-kilometer path takes commuters to the foot of the city's Congressional Hall, where discussions concerning the future of Mexico's transport infrastructure are currently under way.

The group used "Fondeadora" a popular Mexican crowdsourcing site, to raise money to buy paints, brushes and rollers. Veloz says they raised $1,000 in four days and took just eight hours to paint the "wikilane" -- so-called, says Veloz, because it was made through voluntary participation and is open to everyone, like the online encyclopedia, Wikipedia.

"We built our own wooden signs, cut stencils and borrowed a tricycle to carry everything. We invited everyone we knew on Facebook and Twitter and told them to come along," said Veloz, who says around 80 people turned up to help on the day.

We're just letting everybody know that cyclists have a legal priority along this route
Jimena Veloz, "Make Your City Collective"

The new "wikilane" route is marked by striking, three-meter high green triangles, with a white bicycle stencil in the center and the word "prioridad" (Spanish for "priority") written beneath.

According to a report by UN Habitat, Mexico City's current administration has built only 6.8 kilometers of cycle lanes since coming into power in 2006, despite a public pledge to built 300 kilometers by the beginning of 2012.

Jorge Fuentes, spokesperson for Mexico City's environment secretary, said: "The proposal was to raise the 300 kilometers of bike lanes to encourage bicycle mobility.

"However, the Federal District Government decided to change that goal and start the first public bicycle system (in Mexico City), ECOBICI, which has contributed significantly to increasing bicycle travel."

Veloz says the new wikilane had already been designated a cycle lane by city authorities but there were no signs to tell people about it.

"Of course, we don't expect cars not to use that part of the road anymore, we're just letting everybody know that cyclists have a legal priority along this route."

World Bike Festival highlights benefits of cycling

Despite its reputation for congested streets and polluted air, in recent years Mexico City has been lauded for progressive action on the issue of bike transportation, including ECOBICI, which is growing, and Sunday street closures for cyclists.

But a consortium of more than 80 civil organizations across Mexico have joined together to call for the government to do more -- by committing to allocate 5% of all transport budgets to walking and cycling infrastructure.

"About 80% of the transportation budget in Mexico City goes to automobile infrastructure, while trips by private vehicles represent just 30% of total trips," said Mariana Orozco, projects coordinator at the Institute for Transport and Development Policy (ITDP) -- a global organization who have put their weight behind the "5% movement."

"Since the cycle-share scheme was launched in 2010, the number of people cycling to work has more than doubled," she added.

According to Orozco, the thing preventing more Mexico City residents from taking to their bikes is an inflated perception of risk:

"We haven't had a single cycle-related death since the bike-share scheme was launched. But we still need to improve the image of cycling, so that people know that it's safe ... and the government needs to make it an even safer, more attractive option by providing cycle lanes."

According to Mexican cyclist group Bicitekas, which describes its mission as promoting "more humane cities and sustainable transportation," Mexico City could paint 186 miles of bike lanes for as little as $53,000.

Fuentes says that Mexico City's local government is planning to expand the ECOBICI scheme and add 20 kilometers of new bikes lanes in the city in future.

"At least half of all commuters in Mexico City have exchanged one trip on a motorized mode of transport for a bike in the past year," Orozco says. "The people are showing a huge willingness to cycle, and we just need the government to provide some support ... otherwise I'm sure they'll be more wikilanes to come!"

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