Argentina, Practical

Better Urban Biking

Monday, March 15, 2010  

Ciclovia MapHow do you bike safely from the Caminito in La Boca to Plaza Italia in Palermo? Take the Ciclovia the entire way. I’m not so hot on the current neoliberal government in Buenos Aires–which does more to help big business and only cosmetic things for the general public–but I am glad that they’ve added various protected bike lanes throughout the city, formally known as Ciclovias. These lanes are no joke and go where it’s really practical. They are protected by phisical barriers, plus signed well to advise drivers of combustible vehicles, and include dedicated traffic signals to help the bikers drive travel more safely.

Buenos Aires can be a very scary city to bicycle in, where the vast majority of bus drivers, taxis, and car owners have no regard for the fragility of those on bicycles. On the other hand bikes are everywhere here, and are a great way to get around a fairly flat city.  Now with these new protected bike lanes one can cross some of the busiest parts of the city, with much less fear of being mamed.

While the plan is to multiply the Ciclovias and make this an effective transportation system for bicyclists throught the city, still even the existing lanes still have a ways to go to being completely reliable. If you enlarge the map I included here, the part that is labeled for completion in 2009 is still being completed, and I have seen no signs of work started on the lanes for 2010. For the current Ciclovias, there are stretches where they are unexpectedly interrupted for one or more blocks, and there you must venture back into the hairy world of competing with the cars and buses until you discover where it pickes up again. For example in my frequent route from the barrio of Barracas to the bario of Congreso, there is a block that passes by the central headquarters of the Federal Police. Since the Police keeps their water canon trucks and paddy wagons parked there, the work crews have not yet constructed that stretch of the bike lane. Thus, for that one block I cruise by on the sidewalk, which seems to not phase the guards posted with their machine guns hanging.

Enjoy the protection of the Ciclovias, but also be prepared to lose that protection at any moment. I tried the route mapped from La Boca to Plaza Italia, which sounds incredible for its distance and convenience, except it is absent for a long stretch through the busiest part of the city, the Microcentro. Also in plenty of blocks, businesses like to appropriate the lanes for storing dumpsters, parking cars, or just hanging out. Still, a big improvement from not too long ago, before these lanes were built; and the completion of the bike plan should make the city a lot better place for anyone who travels on a bicycle.

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