Life & Leisure

Uruguay’s capital: A no-man’s land for cyclists

By Daniela Calone

Montevideo, Mar 22 (EFE).- Practically devoid of linked cycling routes and bike parking racks, Uruguay’s capital is a particularly unfriendly place for those looking to get around in a large urban area while keeping their environmental footprint to a minimum.

The mobility situation on 18 de Julio Avenue, Montevideo’s main thoroughfare, is one prime example of the problems, with cyclists moving amid cars and buses that fill four lanes of traffic and travel at relatively high speeds.

And because of the current reality, many bike users looking to avoid the dangers of a road clogged with motorists are forced to seek out alternative routes for their daily commutes.

Urban planner Reena Mahajan, founder of the Studio Diversity project, told Efe that Montevideo has a reputation for being “laid-back,” but “it’s really very hostile and very dangerous” for pedestrians and cyclists alike.

“There are no conditions for moving around by bike (in Montevideo). We don’t have secure bike lanes, and we don’t have a network of bike lanes, because an important condition for being able to get around by bike is having a continuous, comfortable and attractive network of bike routes,” the expert said.

Geronimo Olmando, an urban cyclist who manages the Fixie Uruguay bike network, told Efe that Montevideo is not prepared for an active cyclist who leaves early in the morning and returns home in the evening.

“Moving about in Montevideo isn’t difficult. I encourage it, and I believe that it’s good to do so, but it’s an activity that must be planned. When you choose to move around by bike, you need to plan,” he said.

He added that the capital needs more infrastructure, but he said the solution doesn’t lie in painting bike lanes on the street but rather in developing a public mobility policy.

For his part, Andres Amodio, co-author of the book “La bici” and manager of the cycling networks, said Montevideo is not entirely bike-friendly and agreed with Olmando that planning is required before choosing a route to avoid traffic and ensure access to bike lanes and secure places to park.

Tim Vosskaemper, a road engineer and member of the Open City Collective, told Efe that his organization was born out of concerns that Montevideo’s urban model and mobility dynamics are “not the most desirable for people’s wellbeing.”

“How we move around from one place to another has a big impact on our quality of life and that of others around us. Those choices depend a lot on the options I have, and today the way the city is designed invites us to move around by car,” he said.

He added that at present just 1.7 percent of trips within Montevideo are made by bike, adding that improved infrastructure would encourage many more people to make that environmentally friendly choice.

Tatti Ezequiel Gutierrez, who runs a bike repair and maintenance shop in Montevideo’s Ciudad Vieja (Old Town), said car speeds need to be lowered to ensure the safety of cyclists and pedestrians.

“There are more and more private cars and they’re going faster all the time. It’s very difficult to move around. I’ve been riding in traffic for 20 years and there are times when I have to get off and walk because now there are places and peak hours when it’s impossible to ride,” Gutierrez said. EFE


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