Mexico City has a reputation for being smog-ridden, congested and un-walkable. With a population of almost 9 million within a 1,485 km radius (Toronto and Vancouver hover just over 600km, and New York City, just under 800km) the idea of visiting a mega-city on vacation can seem like a daunting task. But friends and peers who traveled to Mexico City had only good things to say, and the city topped the 2016 New York Times travel list—I was convinced it should be my next city to discover.
I knew from reading numerous references in cycling and city activism articles that DF (Distrito Federal, as the city is also known) was undergoing changes to reduce pollution, and re-build effective public transit and cycling alternatives to combat traffic. Nonetheless, I wasn’t expecting the thriving and growing cycling infrastructure of Mexico City that I immediately noticed upon arrival. While many in the city continue to drive under frustrating circumstances, there were many cyclists, commuters, bike deliverers and pleasure-riders alike. These photos come from my recent travels through Mexico City in Condessa, Polanco and the Centro Historico and Central Alameda neighbourhoods.
Photo by Lisa Logan
One of the first things I took notice of in Condessa,was the number of cyclists in separated bike lanes using ECOBICI, the bike sharing system. Cycling or walking seemed a pleasant way to take in the scene: tree-lined residential streets and parks or the small scale businesses which dominate the neighbourhood hubs. This serene setting was in contrast to the wide boulevards and crammed sidewalks jammed with pedestrians throughout the endless city blocks of Centro Historico and nearby Alameda Central. Aside from the throngs moving through the famous public plazas of the Zocolo and Garibaldi, there were junky markets and small business strips. Book and camera stores by the dozens are found behind the big cathedral in the Zocolo. The effect of blurring the public and private space was apparent as the seemingly endless shops opened to the streets. Here, where tourists, Mexican and international alike, gather to hang in the squares, visit the monuments and mural art, did not disclude the cycling community. This is also where weekend street closures along the Paeo de la Reforma, called ‘Muevete en Bici’ bring out the cyclists by the hundreds.
Even the higher end area of Polanco with its massive art-deco modern homes, gated off private schools and big, shiny car dealerships make way for dedicated bike lanes.
From the presence of bicycles in public art and high design eateries in Roma to the many bike deliverers (often on the typical Mexican double cross tube bicycles) rushing through the streets to meet deadlines to the bike-riding officials tagging illegally parked cars, Mexico City was a surprise of green and public space filled with 2 wheelers.
Photo by Lisa Logan
Maybe it’s the separated bike lanes, but cyclists didn’t appear set out to battle traffic with fear and dreaded anticipation in their eyes. Instead I noticed cool, calm (and sometimes hurried) cyclists commuting, or riding with friends, family and dogs, within Mexico City’s almost 200 km’s of dedicated bike lanes. The red and white bikes of the EcoBici bike share program were the ride of choice I mostly spotted. Their bike borrowing system started in 2010 with 84 bike stations. Due to demand its grown to 444 stations covering a 35 km square zone using over 6,000 bikes.
Whether in use for work, pleasure or transportation, bicycles across Mexico City are in abundance, giving way to quieter and less polluted and dangerous streets for pedestrians and tourists alike. Beating the traffic and avoiding the rush hour crowding on public transit seemed like a great way to go in this dense metropolis.
Lisa Logan is a Toronto-based photographer specializing in architecture and design. As a year round urban cyclist, Lisa regularly contributes to and supports activism and awareness in the cycling community.
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