"Get on your bike" is an encouragement to all city residents as for riding their bike in order to reduce the dangerous air quality levels in Mexico City.
We, four students of Mexico City, were concerned that our hometown has been long identified worldwide as one of the unhelthy cities to live in. Mexico City’s air pollution derives from the mixture of toxic, sun-irradiated vehicular and industrial fumes trapped in the high-altitude valley of an expanding urban jungle. High temperatures linked to low rains in the spring has caused a threat to residents’ health and dampened moods. This photochemical cloud suspended over 20 million inhabitants causes us to take extreme actions like having to stay indoors and forcing authorities to implement strict new traffic reductions that restrict vehicles from transit one day a week and one weekend a month, which has further strained an overtaxed public transportation network. But in a city where official pronouncements are regularly viewed with skepticism, many are dubious. We point out that the government so far has failed to impose strict controls to ease the city’s constant state of traffic gridlock. Although the danger is evident, none of the sixteen local mayors had taken any initiative against this public heath issue.
To restrict the numbers of cars circulating was not the solution; on the worst days almost half the cars were not circulating, and there was no difference in the air. The solution needed to come from the development of a revolutionary road culture, encouraging residents to take action: and to ride their bikes!
We had a lot to do, but the first step was to figure out if residents actually did care about the environmental problems in their hometown. That’s why we conducted an online survey addressed to residents of Santa Fe (one of Mexico’s most important financial districts) and got an impressive response: over 190 completed surveys in less than three days! With this accomplishment we not only affirmed our theory that local inhabitants are concerned about this issue but discovered that residents do want to ride their bikes around the city.
Using the high value information from the survey, we wrote a letter to our governor and to “Ecobici” a service that offers free-bike rentals in exchange for an annual membership. We encouraged the government of Mexico City to generate public awareness about the environmental problems, giving them facts about our current situation using our survey as evidence, and offering a proposal for necessary bike lanes in the Santa Fe area that would benefit over 50,000 riders. To the bike-sharing company, we requested new bike centers, a new member fee and also a tax incentive for all those companies interested in giving their employees a smog-free vehicle for work.
With all this in place, we proceeded to implement a drastic change at our school, specifically aimed at our students. We conducted an advertising campaign with the main objectives of improving awareness, increasing bicycle use and establishing a road safety culture. School talks were given in the hope of generating a huge environmental change that will eventually lead to an increase of bicycle riders; with the help of posters placed all around the school we helped students learn the benefits of having a bicycle. The response we had was astonishing as many students became interested in the subject.
With all of these changes happening, we had a very solid base from which to write our law initiative. This was a critical step in our campaign. We presented this initiative to our federal congressman for feedback and possible future discussion in the main House of Representatives. Our proposal included three main changes in our local traffic laws: priority for bicycle riders, mandatory sign posts in all bike lanes and heavy fines for reckless drivers.
The overall project was a complete success. We hope that this is the initial step for a revolutionary change all over Mexico’s capital; we are very thankful for all those who helped this project become a reality. And to all those new bicycle riders we say, ‘Welcome to a new form of living’ and to the others who don’t yet use this form of transport we say, ‘GET ON YOUR BIKE!’