A group of citizens in Guadalajara, Mexico, was fed up with the inaction of the local authorities. Their city has a big traffic problem (350 new cars are added to the city's roads every day, average traffic speed has fallen to 18 km/h, and the quality of our air reaches alarming levels during several days of winter), and those who want to bike have to deal with dangerous roads that don't have bike lanes. So these citizens, led by local teachers and students, decided to fix the problem themselves. Check out the video below!
The video is in Spanish, but the images mostly speak for themselves:
The group has released a document about why and how it did what it did. Here are some highlights from the English version. It's a bit long, but I think it's worth it to let them explain their thought process in their own words:
We have a problem: 350 cars are added to the city traffic every day; the average traffic speed has fallen to 18 km/h and the quality of our air reaches alarming levels during several days of winter.
We have a plan: due to pressure from several non-government organizations and some commitment from our local authorities, the Guadalajara metropolitan area (Tonalá, Tlaquepaque, Zapopan, El Salto, Tlajomulco and Guadalajara) has a document that sets the standards for what the city could become by shifting from its motor-driven orientation to a more pedestrian, public transport oriented and bike friendly one.
We don't have the authorities on our side: in the decision making process politicians strive so hard to nullify each other's projects that they end up doing nothing. [...]
the idea blossomed in Carlos López, a teacher at the Tecnológico de Monterrey College; Pablo Huitrón, student from the same institution; and Joy Nuño and Jorge Zúñiga, members of the Ciudad para Todos - "a city for all"-- collective. Nuño and Zúñiga shared the idea to all the members of this group on one of our Wednesday night meetings and it was enthusiastically --and immediately --embraced. One of the routes stated in what is known as the Plan Peatonal Ciclista (Pedestrian Cyclist Plan, paid for by the government, by the way), points out that Santa Margarita Avenue is one of the most used streets by cyclists on their way to work, school; etc. In paper, this should be done by authorities. In reality this was waiting for a group of citizens to be done. [...]
"Are you organizing a race?" a newspaper sales man asks me while we hang a sign. "No, we're just making it safe for bicyclists", I reply. "Oh, ok", is his startled answer. Such questions were made to several other volunteers of the project. On a city where most of their inhabitants tend to rely hopelessly on their government, awkwardness is expected.
Meanwhile, we were getting a lot of thumbs up. [...]
In Mexico, the cost of building a bike lane reaches about a hundred thousand dollars per kilometer. This means that the section on which we worked, 2.5 kilometers on each side of a two way avenue, could have cost about five hundred thousand dollars. The investment, the citizen's investment, was of only a thousand dollars.
Guadalajara has the potential to become one of the most bike-friendly cities in the world. It has lovely weather --never too cold, never too hot-- and the streets are mostly flat. With all these conditions on our side, what else do we need to make the whole metropolitan area a friendlier place to pedestrians, bicyclists and the physically impaired?
Probably more people that embrace the citizen's way.