MEDELLIN, Colombia – Officials and forward-thinking citizens in the northwestern Colombian city of Medellin have decided to promote the use of bicycles by means of a digital application with specific benefits for users, as a means of lowering pollution levels in a city going through an environmental emergency.
To complement other projects and restrictions aimed at cleaning Medellin’s air – such as limits on automotive traffic – a group of innovators presented the “Biko” app for mobile devices, which encourages the use of bicycles by converting the number of kilometers (miles) pedaled into points that can be donated to worthy causes or spent at restaurants and places of entertainment.
“This technological platform motivates riding bicycles in urban areas for the three benefits they offer: transportation, protecting the environment and healthy living,” Emilio Pombo, co-founder of the Colombian company Biko, told EFE.
Over the past few weeks, the Air Quality Monitoring Network of Aburra Valley, in charge of studying and measuring air quality in the Medellin metropolitan area, said that now is a “critical” time with as much as twice the normal concentration of PM2.5 particles (the finest and most harmful to human health).
Though restrictions on autos have diminished the pollution a little, the environmental emergency continues, which makes the Biko app an invaluable resource. It now has more than 40,000 registered users and was launched a year ago in Bogota, to help the capital alleviate similar problems.
Pombo said that in addition to its impact on Bogota and being added to the program for cleaning the air in Medellin, Biko will be launched next May in Mexico City, where there are “huge problems” of air pollution, as well as the public health crisis of widespread obesity.
This application, besides exchanging kilometers (miles) for redeemable points, encourages calorie-burning exercise and reports the average savings of CO2 emissions achieved by riding a bike rather than driving a car.
For her part, the deputy director of Metropolitan Area Mobility for Aburra Valley, Viviana Tobon, said the current situation makes it essential to look again at “the city we want to build,” after decreeing a red alert for the high contamination levels.
“What has occurred in recent weeks has put us on the alert and shows that an ultra-motorized city based on individual transportation is asphyxiating us,” Tobon told EFE.