Uruguayans Push for Sustainable Transport

Last Thursday, February 28, 2013, some 200 cyclists [es] gathered in front of Montevideo City Hall (Intendencia Municipal de Montevideo) to deliver a petition addressed to Montevideo Mayor Ana Olivera and relevant local authorities requesting safe lanes for bicycles, secure parking for bicycles in public and private locations, and campaigns to educate cyclists and other road users.

YouTube user Gabriel46936 shared the following video of the demonstration:

The initiative, spearheaded by Facebook groups ‘Gente en Bicicleta Uruguay’ (People on Bicycle Uruguay) [es] and ‘Ciclovida Urbana’ (Urban Cyclelife) [es] and posted on petition platform Change.org [es], managed to collect over 10,000 signatures by the set date and continues to gather supporters, reaching almost 10,400 at the writing of this article.

Gathering of cyclists in front of the City Hall Montevideo, Uruguay, to demand bike lines. Image by Roger Tijman from Facebook (CC).

Gathering of cyclists in front of the City Hall Montevideo, Uruguay, to demand bike lanes. Image by Roger Tijman shared on Facebook.

Image by Gianluca Casanova from Facebook (CC). Child during demonstration in Montevideo, Uruguay.  Sign says: "Watch ooout! because I don't have a bike line. Critical Mass Montevideo"

4-year-old Gianluca during demonstration in Montevideo, Uruguay, holding a sign that says: “Watch ooout! because I don't have a bike lane. Critical Mass Montevideo”
Image by Ciclovida shared on Facebook.

Handing in the signatures to authorities. Image by Gente En Bicicleta Uruguay from Facebook (CC).

Handing in the signatures to authorities.
Image by Gente En Bicicleta Uruguay shared on Facebook.

Individual citizens, volunteer groups and even businesses [es] seem to be a few steps ahead of the government when it comes to integrating sustainable modes of transport like bicycles to the city's transport system. Non governmental organizations like Urubike [es] and interest groups like Bike Age (Bici Era) [es] and the local branch of Critical Mass (Masa Crítica Montevideo) [es] have been promoting cycling as a sustainable option for urban transport for a few years now through the organization of talks, workshops, and riding events to raise awareness among the general population.

The Strategic Development Plan for Transport, Logistics and Infrastructure [es] of the Ministry of Transport and Public Works for 2030 includes under the three main goals:

[la] mejora de la calidad de vida de la población y protección de la seguridad pública

to improve the population's quality of life and public safety protection

And among the specific objectives:

propender a un transporte sustentable, reduciendo sus impactos sobre la energia y el ambiente.

to tend to sustainable transport, reducing impacts on energy and the environment

The 13-page document, though, mentions bicycles only too briefly [es] on page 12:

Fomentar el uso del transporte colectivo de pasajeros en el área metropolitana a través de un incremento de la calidad del mismo, con el objetivo de desincentivar la utilización del automóvil privado para los traslados diarios e impulsando itinerarios seguros para bicicletas y peatones

To promote the use of public transport in the metropolitan area through the increase in its quality, with the objective of discouraging the use of the private car for daily commute and promote safe routes for bicycles and pedestrians

After the recent demonstrations and requests, will the government re-evaluate its long-term plan for transport? According to this video of support for bike lanes in Uruguay, the rest of the world thinks it definitely should.

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