SANTIAGO – The 5th World Bicycle Forum began on Thursday with a group ride along the bank of the Mapocho River, which bisects the Chilean capital.
Municipal authorities have reserved a portion of the riverside road for cyclists and pedestrians for the duration of the forum, which runs through April 5.
The theme of the 2016 forum is “Human Energy, Citizen Power” and organizers hope to stimulate discussion of how to make cities safe for bicycles as a practical, everyday method of transportation.
“We see a real and paradigmatic example of how organized civil society is capable of initiating a process of transformation of the cities to restore a balance with the ecosystems,” the forum’s coordinator, Arturo Torres, said before the start of the ride.
“Chile is an unusual case, because we have a very empowered citizenry and, even so, we lack a public policy that protects those who get around the city by bicycle,” Torres told EFE.
Early last month, a group of Chilean cycling activists presented the government with a list of proposals aimed at consolidating the role of the bicycle as a “key tool for people’s quality of life.”
“In Chile we are approaching 7 percent of daily journeys by bicycle, while in a developed, cyclist-friendly city (the proportion) is around 18 percent,” according to the group Ciclistas Furiosos.