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close this bookEnvironmental Limits to Motorisation (SKAT, 1993)
close this folder6. Towards a strategy to promote NMT
View the document6.1. Efficient production of NMVs
View the document6.2. Facilitating access to bicycles
View the document6.3. Urban planning for a bicycle-friendly "climate"

6.3. Urban planning for a bicycle-friendly "climate"

6.3.1. Cuba: in 18 months, a country of bicycles

When Cuba ran out of fuel and foreign exchange, it initiated a dramatic transformation of its public transportation system.182 The government declared as a "periodo especial", reallocated fuel to priority sectors such as tourism and biotechnology, and put the rest of the economy on a survival mode.

In January 1990, when the decision "to enter the bicycle era" was announced, Havana, with a population of two million, had an estimated 30'000 bicycles on the road. Since then fuel consumption has been reduced by about two-thirds in the last two years, the public transport fleet was reduced from 2'000 to 1'000 buses. In early 1992, Havana had 700'000 bicycles, 1'000 cargo tricycles, and an experimental fleet of "ciclo-taxis" operating from the train station and a suburban hospital."

It is assumed under this de-motorisation programme that if the national truck fleet of 100'000 motorised vehicles is eventually reduced by half, fuel savings could total US $ 500 million a year. The cost of the ordered 1.2 million CKD bicycles is about US $ 50 million plus US $ 10 million for cargo tricycles, a one-time capital outlay which will never require any fuel.

Bicycles are distributed through workplaces and schools and paid for in monthly instalments over periods of up to two years. For a Chinese-manufactured "Flying Pigeon" bicycle, a worker or professional pays 130 pesos and a student 80 pesos. Monthly incomes range from 300 pesos for less skilled workers to 1'000 pesos for top professionals. Hence, affordability is not a problem due to this financing mechanism, which is the key to the programme's success.

Cuba's experience of "flooding" with bicycles in a short time presents a real challenge for the traffic planners, especially as three years ago, the city's principal urban planner answered clearly that they "were doing nothing" regarding bicycles. Now, there are 12 planners in Havana working in several institutions on various aspects of NMT. For example, at the city's Planning Department, one architect is assigned on a full time basis designing a city-wide system of NMV parking lots.

6.3.2. Planning for the bicycle: acquiring the know-how

Planning for a bicycle-friendly traffic environment is an art which requires a lot of intelligent fine-tuning, knowledge and experience. The experience gathered in bicycle-friendly towns in Europe is now systematically documented and exchanged. More and more design standards have been approved by Transport Ministries.183 These experiences are now regularly exchanged in national and international seminars and conferences. The "Velo-City" conferences are now taking place annually in OECD countries, yet hardly any planners from developing countries are participating.

The knowledge in developing countries about planning for NMT is extremely poor. Many urban planners in Latin America acquired their knowledge in the USA, and never heard a word about bicycles in their curriculum. Similar conditions are prevalent all over the world.

It would therefore be highly recommendable and fruitful to start training programmes, exchange programmes and seminars on bicycle planning between European/Japanese planners and developing countries, and especially by South-South exchanges, where the experiences of China, India, etc., can be made available to a wider public.

6.3.3. Networking local experience: Curitiba, Bogota

Even in Latin America, which is not at all a bicycle-friendly continent, there are very relevant experiences available. Curitiba, a modern city of 1.5 million inhabitants in the south of Brazil, became a "model town" during the 12 years of Jaime Lerner's period as mayor: a car-free inner-city, efficient promotion of public transport and a network of cycle ways can be mentioned, together with other examples of good urban management. The busways in Curitiba, designed over a decade ago, are especially efficient.

A few years ago, a very interesting experience was introduced in Bogota, the capital of Colombia, with 5 million inhabitants. Bogota had a severe pollution problem and traffic was so aggressive that nobody ever walked in the streets. In 1986 Mayor Ramirez Ocampo started the "ciclovias dominicales"(Sunday's cycle ways)184 consisting of 80 km of avenidas (avenues) closed for motor traffic on Sunday morning from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.. The response of the population was enthusiastic: every Sunday, more than half a million people went out on bicycles, roller skates, skateboards and celebrated a public festival of joy and fun. Interestingly, this also made cycling attractive to the upper middle class, and the lawyers and managers changed their black suits for T-shirts: On 27-gear bicycles, even the most vain yuppie in Bogota could celebrate his fashion show, together with the day-labourer from the slum on his single gear-bike. Bogota suddenly became so peaceful that lots of street cafes opened, and even the famous "gamines" (pick-pockets) enjoyed life on Sunday instead of doing their job. The "ciclovias" showed the citizens of Bogota what quality of life was possible in their streets if cars are banned.

In Santiago, the capital of Chile, a pilot "cycle-path and metro-link" project was opened in May 1991, which includes parking at metro stations.185

Bicycle-friendly environments can also be found in many smaller towns in Latin America, such as in the banana-regions of Honduras (El Progreso, San Pedro, Sula), where the plantation companies have given bicycle loans to their workers in order to reach the extensive fields easier. Similar programmes exist in the sugar-plantation towns of Palmira (near Cali) in Colombia.

It is therefore important to organise seminars and other opportunities where these different experiences can be exchanged and made public. The Earth Summit in Rio, for example, is hosting a seminar on "sustainable transportation", which was expected to bring around 150 NGOs together. The "Institute of Technology for the Citizen" in Rio has been organising this conference, and at the same time lobbying for a cycle way-network in Rio.186

Through regional networking, a lot of experience in bicycle-friendly urban planning can be exchanged and documented; it seems well worth supporting such initiatives among NGOs.