(Photo: Istock)

The drawing of a yellow line with a bicycle in the low-speed lane on Insurgentes Avenue, which crosses Mexico City from north to south, caused a stir on social media.

For the first time in history, this road will have an exclusive bicycle lane that will run alongside Line 1 of the Metrobús. This measure seeks to reduce the strain on public transport, to avoid large daily concentrations of people and the spread of Covid-19. In addition, it may improve air quality.

So far in 2020, the inhabitants of the Valley of Mexico Metropolitan Area have only breathed 27 days of “clean” air. According to figures from the Atmospheric Monitoring Office of the Mexico City government, of the 156 days elapsed this year, only 17% have had levels of pollutants (such as ozone and suspended particles) that are below the maximum limit allowed by Mexico’s official regulations.

Now, due to the emergency caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, the capital city’s government is trying to reduce the number of public transport users and get them on their bikes by creating new routes, promoting enrollment in the Ecobici public rental system with a 50% discount, and even by loaning them for free on the temporary bike lanes.

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But will the addition of new bicycle lanes help to reduce pollution levels?

Temporary to permanent

Adrián Fernández, Director of the Mexico Climate Initiative, says that the new routes can indeed improve air quality, especially by relying on non-motorized vehicles.

In an interview for Tec Review, he warns, however, that routes such as the one that will be run on Insurgentes should not be temporary (as Mexico City reported) but permanent.

“What would be ideal is for the temporary cycle paths to become permanent. It would be a wise move for the city to keep them,” he explains.

The researcher, who is encouraging the authorities to start using renewable energy, insists that it will help, as long as it seeks to permanently reduce motorized vehicles and mobility.

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Source of Pollution

According to the latest Emissions Inventory from the capital’s government, there are 5.7 million vehicles in the Metropolitan Area, including personal vehicles, minibuses, metro buses, taxis, and trucks.

Taking into the account the number of people they can transport and the amount of pollutants they emit, private vehicles are considered to be the greatest source of pollution, with 56% of emissions into the atmosphere.

Claudia Sheinbaum, the Mayor of Mexico City, announced on May 31 that priority would be given to this type of transport to avoid saturation of the transport system and avoid spreading the coronavirus.

“To avoid saturating public spaces, temporary bike lanes are being created. These will be tested to see how they operate, with the objective of promoting bicycles to avoid overcrowding,” she said.

Andrés Lajous, Mexico City Secretary of Mobility, said that in 2020 the goal is to build 69 kilometers of new bicycle lanes, the most important increase since 2004.

Two huge bicycle parking lots will also be built in Tláhuac and Iztapalapa, to promote intermobility, i.e. the use of various methods of transportation so that people can reach their destination.

Where will the temporary bike lanes be?

40 kilometers from Villa Olímpica to San Simón, which will run parallel to Line 1 of the Metro bus.

14 kilometers from Parque Lira to Rojo Gómez, which will run parallel to Line 2 of the Metro bus.

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