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Mexico City bike activists paint 'Wikilane' for cyclists

Mexico City bike activists paint 'Wikilane' for cyclists

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MEXICO CITY -- Bike activists painted a "Wikilane" near Mexico's national congress to highlight their demand that 5 percent of the country's transportation budget be directed to bike infrastructure.

MEXICO CITY -- Call it an effort at collective graffiti with a practical purpose.

A group of activist bicyclists painted an unauthorized bike lane – a "Wikilane" – a short ride from Mexico's national congress to draw attention to their demand: that 5 percent of the national transportation budget go to bike infrastructure.

Mexican lawmakers have to settle on the 2012 budget before the end of the year, and the details of the package are currently being debated.

"This is a symbolic act," said Bernardo Baranda, director of the Mexico City-based Latin America office of the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, which is headquartered in New York. "What we did is easy to erase. What we're asking is also very reasonable and well-thought-out."

The 3-mile "Wikilane" was laid down in a hurry a week ago by about 300 people armed with brooms, brushes and buckets of bright green and white paint. The word "Priority" was stenciled in white along the way.

It was the second time around: Activists painted a pioneer "Wikilane" last month but city workers erased it two days later.

Mexico City has been lauded for progressive action on the issue of the bike transportation, including a growing bike-lending program and Sunday street closures for cyclists. But activists – ITDP and more than 80 other civil organizations and bike shops in Mexico and Latin America who back the 5 percent movement – want more from Mexico City and other cities throughout the region.

They're argument is that, in Mexico City for example, 80 percent of the transportation budget goes to automobile infrastructure, when trips by car represent just 20 percent of the total, according to ITDP. Meanwhile, a relatively small investment in bike infrastructure such as separated bike lanes could dramatically improve the landscape for cyclists.

Mexico City could paint 186 miles of bike lanes for 720,000 pesos, or about $53,000, according to the cyclist group Bicitekas, which describes its mission as promoting "more humane cities and sustainable transportation."

Lawmakers on the congressional transportation commission are wrangling with budget requests totaling about $2.2 billion. Currently, there are no earmarks specifically directed to non-motorized transportation.

As for the life of the latest "Wikilane," Baranda said: "We hope it lasts and, above all, that it has an impact."

Photo: Antonio Malverde

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Lauren Villagran

Correspondent (Mexico City)

Lauren Villagran has written for the Associated Press, Dallas Morning News and Christian Science Monitor. She holds a degree from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure