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How car-free Sundays could be challenging Santiago’s social barriers

3 min read

Better Society
How car-free Sundays could be challenging Santiago’s social barriers
Source: CicloRecreoVia

On Sunday mornings all cars are banned from 40 km of the Chilean capital’s roads, putting cyclists and pedestrians first for a change.

Santiago lagged behind other cities in the region for cycling and walking

Santiago, the Chilean capital with an urban population of five million, and a metro area population of over seven million, is a beautiful old-world city enjoying a modern day renaissance. Last year, Santiago completed major improvements in pedestrian space, cycling, and public transit. 

Do you think roads should be made car-free once in a while where you live? How would you feel about a scheme like this in your neighbourhood? Source: Facebook/BBCFuture

Parque Metropolitano is twice the size of Central Park and great for cycling

Santiago’s Calle Aillavilú, in the central market of the city, has been transformed from a derelict, car-congested and unregulated parking lot to a pedestrian-friendly oasis. The street was repaved, the lighting improved, new trees were planted, and most importantly, cars were removed. What’s more, now around 40 km of the city’s roads become car-free every Sunday for all to enjoy.

The other big attraction for Santiago’s weekend cyclists is the Parque Metropolitano – the city’s answer to Central Park. Twice the size of its New York counterpart, the Parque is a gigantic green finger of mountain that reaches down into the city from the Andes. Head there on a weekend and it is packed with lycra-clad cyclists, winding up and down its paved roads or charging through woodlands on mountain bikes.

Geographically and climatically, Santiago is kind to those on bikes. The city is backed by some of the highest mountains in the world but is surprisingly and mercifully flat, rising from an altitude of 475 metres in the west to around 700 metres in well-heeled Las Condes and Vitacura. Only in the eastern extremes, where the city extends its tentacles into the foothills of the Andes, does the going get tough. It is a dry city too, with around 280mm of rainfall a year – less than half of London’s total. For a third of the year between November and February it hardly rains a drop.

Santiago is by no means a cycling Mecca. It cannot yet compare with the bike-friendly towns of Northern Europe, but it has come a long way.
Source: TheGuardian Main Image: CicloRecreoVia

Around 30,000 people take to Santiago’s car-free roads on Sundays as part of an initiative by CicloRecreoVia to encourage cycling.
Car-free Sunday is a family favourite in the capital city Around 30,000 people take to Santiago’s car-free roads on Sundays as part of an initiative by CicloRecreoVia to encourage cycling. Source: Facebook CicloRecreoVia

Policy redistributes road-spaces to create more room for cyclists.

The changes made on the streets of Santiago will go a long way toward improving social mobility in this city with significant class divides. On Sunday mornings, cars are banned from 40 kilometres of Santiago’s roads. 

Around 30,000 people take to those vehicle-free streets on bikes, skateboards, roller-blades, or simply on foot.

The City has backed up these achievements with new sustainable transport policy changes and education programs. In April 2015, the National Ministry of Housing and Urbanism created a detailed standard of design for high quality cycle lanes, even piloting it in a major street near the presidential palace. The policy redistributes road-spaces to create more space for cyclists.

This standard was quickly adopted by Santiago, and the city has managed to increase cycling trips from a negligible 150 per day to over 5000 per day. This number is expected to increase with the growing popularity of BikeSantiago, the city’s bike share program, which is responsible for 50 percent of the increase.

Santiago also gave support to BMov Trici, a free bicycle taxi in the historic city centre operated by a private company, supported by advertising, that encourages cycle use and provides a non-motorised alternative to taxis.

Source: itdp.org

As traffic jams grow longer and parking becomes more scarce, more Santiaguinos are using transit, cycling, and walking to get around their city.
Cycling is aiding greater social mobility in Santiago, a city with significant class divides As traffic jams grow longer and parking becomes more scarce, more Santiaguinos are using transit, cycling, and walking to get around their city. Source: TheGuardian/Kirsten Kortebein
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