Event May 18, 2020

Bicycle mobility in the time of coronavirus

Cycling, Bogota
  • Date May 7-8
  • Organised by CFF Despacio Bucaramanga
  • Participant details 777 attendees 96 cities 24 countries

What strategies can cities implement to strengthen the use of the bicycle as a mode of transport during and after the COVID-19 pandemic?


Read here the Spanish article.

Strengthening the use of the bicycle as a means of transportation is a great initiative that not only promotes the health of citizens who use it, but also provides various benefits for cities. Firstly, cycling reduces environmental pollution by replacing the use of private vehicles. On the other hand, by promoting the construction of cycling infrastructure, municipal governments invest in giving the city back to the people, moving away from mobility schemes that prioritise the use of cars. 

In recent years, many cities in Latin America have invested in programmes that encourage cycling. However, the crisis caused by the coronavirus has seriously affected the organization of societies and cities around the world, severely limiting mobility through social isolation and contingency measures. Even though cities are gradually beginning to return to their normal rhythms, the risks presented by the agglomeration of people in mass public transport will have an impact on the daily mobility of citizens. 

At this time, municipal governments are facing the challenge of how to guarantee safe, efficient and affordable mobility in the face of the current health crisis. For this reason, on May 7th and 8th the Virtual Forum "Bicycle Mobility in Times of COVID-19" was held, organized by C40 Cities Finance Facility and Fundación Despacio, with the support of the Municipality of Bucaramanga.

Día 1
The agenda on Day 1 of the Foro.

After some words of welcome by Manuel Olivera, C40 Regional Director for Latin America, the workshop started with a message from the Colombian Minister of Transport, Ángela María Orozco, who, through a recording, communicated to the attendees the importance of cycling in the transformation of cities. Likewise, Juan David Roldán, Coordinator of the Environmental Affairs and Sustainable Development Group at the Ministry, gave a presentation on the challenges involved in the strategy of social distancing due to COVID-19 and the variety of innovative initiatives that can be implemented. 

After the opening, the session on post-contingency mobility opportunities and risks was held with an introduction by Carlos Felipe Pardo of the NUMO organization and three presentations by the CFF cities of the Colombian cluster:

  • William Vallejo, Secretary of Mobility of Cali.
  • Beatriz Sánchez, Secretary of Transit of Montería.
  • Ángel Gálvis, from the Office of the Mayor of Bucaramanga.

The second session, "Public bicycle systems in the COVID-19 scenario" was moderated by Mariel Figueroa, former General Manager of Tembici for Argentina, and had the objective of presenting the experience of three cities in the topic of shared bicycles. 

First, Luisa Vargas from the Metropolitan Area of Valle de Aburrá, spoke about the process of Encicla (its bicycle sharing system) when the health crisis came to Colombia. At the beginning, her team made the decision to close the system because the bikes could be a vector of contagion without the appropriate measures. However, on April 2 they reopened the system with prevention and biosecurity protocols, including adequate training for maintenance personnel, a digital strategy of self-care for users, as well as antibacterial gel in all stations.

On the other hand, in contrast, Adrián López of MiBici in Guadalajara and Fernanda Rivera, General Director of Road Safety and Sustainable Urban Mobility Systems in Mexico City, talked about their experience in not closing the systems with the arrival of the contingency.

It was never in doubt whether to shut the bike-sharing system or not, because it is considered an essential transportation system.
Fernanda Rivera General Director of Road Safety and Sustainable Urban Mobility Systems in Mexico City

EcoBici is the largest bike sharing system in Latin America, with 67.4 million trips made since its creation in 2010. In her presentation, Fernanda explained that during the pandemic the following measures were established (below). At the end, Fernanda showed that during the pandemic there has been an average reduction in travel of 76%. However, this turns out to be positive news as it shows that people are complying with the quarantine and staying at home.

    • Despite the fact that the number of new registrations in the system fell in recent months, a process of digitization of was carried out and, for the first time, new users can complete their registration online. 
    • With the crisis, the use of bicycles for delivery purposes increased. Therefore, the Ecobici team decided to extend the travel time from 45 minutes to 60 minutes. Also, on weekends the time allowed increased to 90 minutes.
    • Hygiene measures were implemented to protect users and since March 15th, 800 bikes are cleaned per day in the City, accumulating a total of 51,320 bikes cleaned.
Día 2
The agenda on Day 2 of the Foro.

In his keynote speech, Nicolás Estupiñán, Secretary of Mobility of Bogotá, announced that the Cycle Highway “Medio Milenio” (previously known as “Quinto Centenario”) will be implemented as a temporary road cycle during the contingency. The project of this cycle-highway received support from CFF during its first phase, details can be found here.

The number of participants in the Virtual Forum "Bicycle Mobility in COVID-19 Times" exceeded expectations in all senses and there was a lot of interaction from the audience throughout the two days. Thus, it became one more of CFF's efforts to share best practices among cities, transmitting information that is useful for cities to learn how to properly operate shared bicycle systems, as well as to promote cycling as a mode of transportation.