Tecnológico de Monterrey’s Center for the Future of Cities warns that it’s a means of transport that has brought benefits, but excessive usage is the problem.
Abraham Avellana tutors chemistry, physics, and mathematics classes from high school to university level. He’s 38 years old and his means of transport in Mexico City is the bicycle.
“When traveling by bike, you arrive at the places you’re headed with a lot of energy, even if they’re two or three kilometers away. Hormones and chemicals fire up the body as a result of physical exertion and you arrive with the right attitude,” he says.
But why is it important to encourage people to use bicycles and public transport? How much do we pollute in our daily commute? How do we affect air quality? On World Car Free Day, we explain the environmental benefits of leaving our cars behind.
September 22 has been established as World Car Free Day in Mexico since 2018, when it was published in the National Gazette.
But in Europe, it’s been celebrated since 1998. What’s more, Great Britain was the first country to do so on a national level.
This day aims to raise awareness regarding environmental and health impacts caused by the widespread use of cars.
At the same time, it aims for cities to be planned from an integrated mobility perspective that dignifies pedestrians, cyclists, and public transport users with efficient and sustainable services.
“That feeling of freedom when you’re pedaling through the streets is very satisfying,” says Sandy Padilla.
She says that she enjoys it a lot because she does exercise, but also because it’s a very practical means of transport for her. From her house in the Roma neighborhood, she gets around to different parts of Mexico City.
As a child, she enjoyed riding her bike, but for several years, it’s been a tool that’s allowed her to get around the city.
“That feeling of adrenaline is what I really like about cycling. I also like that I contribute to reducing pollution, because I make one less person in a car,” says Mariana Mercado, the 40-year-old manager of People for Bikes Santa Fe.
For her, the bicycle is her main means of transport. “I find less traffic and it’s very enjoyable.”
Mariana noticed that, with the onset of the pandemic, the number of bike lanes in Mexico City had increased, although she warns that they could be in better condition.
“The biggest problem is that there are a lot of drivers who don’t respect cyclists, and some are very aggressive,” she says.
For Abraham Avellana, one of the pleasures that pedaling has given him is that he’s gotten to know the city in a different way, which has allowed him to overcome stigmas around certain places which are considered dangerous, such as Iztapalapa or Nezahualcóyotl.
“I’ve been able to discover the hills, and I’ve even found archaeological sites with temazcales on the way. They’re pleasant discoveries that make me happy,” he says.
Omar Hernández, Research and Analysis Manager from the Center for the Future of Cities at Tecnológico de Monterrey, says that it’s not a war against cars since they’ve brought benefits to humanity as a means of transport. The problem is that their usage has been excessive.
“Why give so much priority to cars if we’re lacking space for schools, hospitals, and public works that benefit broad sectors of society?” he says in an interview for Tec Review.
The specialist provides some thought-provoking information on World Car Free Day.
“It’s a great means of transport, but the excessive use of cars has caused repercussions for pedestrians, cyclists, and public transport, because it leaves them less space, it causes too much pollution, and it has repercussions on drivers themselves due to the time lost in traffic,” adds Omar Hernández.
This might interest you: Sustainable mobility advances as a constitutional right. We tell you what it involves
In recent years, various perspectives from engineering, biology, ecology, and society have been integrated into the concept of mobility. Now, the dimension of mobility is considered a human right.
In 2012, Miguel Rivas, a member of the Institute of Biology’s Ecological Restoration Laboratory at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), was part of the team that defined this concept in the Special Mobility Report for the Human Rights Commission of what was then the Federal District.
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