health & active lifestyle

A snapshot of the “Ciclovias Recreativas” programme

Dec 11, 2019

To recover the life of the city, generating spaces for recreation and where it is possible and enjoyable to play and perform physical activity, as well as to carry out cultural and educational activities that encourage coexistence and promote healthy and sustainable lifestyles.

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City governments can find in the Cyclovías recreativas an effective and affordable program that promotes health, local economic development and social cohesion in their communities.
The promoters and main organisations at the continental level that develop Recreational Ciclovías, are gathered around the Recreational Cyclovías de las Américas Network (CRA Network).

How to develop a Ciclovía Recreativa?

The basic steps to develop a recreational cycle path can be summarised in the following points:

  • Political will: ensure that there is a political will to carry out the Recreational Ciclovía and to make decisions that may initially generate a certain level of conflict. It includes not only mayors or elected representatives, but also authorities with a more technical nature such as those in charge of transit or public transport as well as the engagement and involvement of all the stakeholders willing to support the development of the activity
  • Technical feasibility of the project: determine which streets are technically viable to be closed. At this stage, keys are aspects such as the characteristics of the roads to be closed (slope, condition of the pavement, etc); the presence of shops or businesses and facilities that generate excess vehicular traffic on the roads to be occupied; and, finally, existence of good road alternatives for vehicular flow (especially for public transport) that will be diverted during the day and time of the event.
  • Economic viability: implementing a Ciclovía Recreativa involves a series of expenses or investments that range from the purchase of many items, the contracting of services and the payment of fees that will work in the activity, so it is essential to verify that resources (state or private) are available to support the Ciclovía recreativa for the operating period planned.
  • Technical development: obtain approval – from the correspondents – on the core technical elements of the project (which are not required to be complex), which primarily should indicate: the activity proposed circuit; deviations proposed for motorized vehicular flow; temporary signage to occupy; staff willing for the activity with its location and functions; mitigation or special measures to be taken to ensure that all motorists may leave and enter their residence or businesses or other facilities and dissemination campaigns to be implemented.
  • Commitment to organising other activities: plan to carry out activities, activations and interventions in the Ciclovía Recreativa on their own or in charge of third parties that make it even more attractive to users. Among these activities can be the development of activities for children,
    gift of water or fruit, loan of bicycles or skates, etc.
  • Recruitment and training: the call to recruit, select, train and assign functions is essential, with special emphasis on achieving a real commitment of staff (whether voluntary or not) to take it seriously. As the activities interact in one way or another with the vehicular flow, it is particularly important that it is carried out in a responsible and rigorous manner.
    In addition, the staff must commit to being punctual and constant as such activity normally must be set up very early and whose development extends outdoor for several hours, sometimes with lots of sun, cold or rain. The staff will be responsible, among other things, for assembling and disassembling the circuit of the Ciclovía recreativa and for safeguarding security during the activity itself.
  • Acquisition of equipment and supplies and service contract: the main acquisitions and expenses in services that must be incurred to start up and subsequently maintain the operation of a Ciclovia recreativa, are the following: security equipments (cones, fences, tapes, traffic signs, etc); purchase of uniforms for staff; hiring of warehouse and freight (for the transfer of the material); insurance management (when applicable);development of dissemination material (flyers, posters).
  •  Development of the outreach campaign: the start of a Ciclovía recreativa must necessarily be announced and promoted. The foregoing, both to invite and mobilise the neighbours, public and inhabitants of the city in general, as well as to give warning to motorists on the streets that they won’t be allowed to access during the activity and inform on the deviations, which should therefore be used. The diffusion can be done by means of delivery of leaflets; display of posters and canvases; messages on social networks; use of traditional mass media (if possible) such as radios, newspapers and television; dissemination in local media (neighbourhood newspapers, regional radios).
  • Development and maintenance of the activity: implementation on the first day assuming volunteers and staff as numerous as possible. Constant supervision of staff, respect for schedule and execution of tasks. Give high priority to the safety component and, above all ensure that the Ciclovía recreativa remains effectively free from the circulation of motor vehicles, with only exception for motorised neighbours requiring leaving or coming back to their home, businesses, church or other.
  • Evaluate the activity at the end of the first day and stay mobilised for the second day and the following.

Ciclovías recreativas in Chile: a case study

Streets that are closed for a few hours to the passage of motorised vehicles ensure that people can cycle, rollerblade, skate, or simply walk or jog safely. The initiative has been repeated in different communes of Chile and in the whole continent to promote physical activity. According to recent academic research, this type of initiative not only strengthens social cohesion in cities, but also brings people closer to meeting the minimum goal of 150 minutes of physical activity per week as recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO).

On average, people today spend 113 minutes doing some type of activity in the closed streets and 69.1% say their health is better or much better than a year ago. Regarding the users, the average age is 37.1 years old and the main activity is cycling (68.4%), followed by jogging (17.1%), other (9.8%) and walking (3,7%). Users’ main motivations are doing physical activity of recreational type, taking care of their health and enjoying discovering the ctiy in a different way.

However, according to Professor Rodrigo Mora de la Universidad Diego Portales, Santiago, Chile, this type of initiative in the country does not have the financial support from the State that would allow continuity over time or extension of the project to other cities. As for Daniela Godoy, the Executive Secretary of Eligir Livir Sano (Choose a healthy life), cycling has benefits for physical, mental and environmental health and there is evidence that it reduces the risk of obesity and chronic diseases, improves the quality of sleep and reduces carbon dioxide emissions into the environment. These are all the reasons why initiatives that promote bicycle use have been taken with Ministries such as Housing and Transportation. Daniela Godoy reports that the Chilean State is working on a bicycle use policy and is building car park lots close to metro lines. Sandra Mahecha, Med. Doctor specialised in Sport medicine and physical activity at Universidad Mayor, says that “the current WHO recommendation on 150 minutes of physical activity a week recommended on any number of days of the week is more powerful than the stimulus of being regular”. In regards to prevention from diseases, it is proven that
“although the recommendation is not reached, any minute is better
than nothing,” she insists.

Social cohesion

Another result substantiated by the study published in the Medical Journal of Chile is related to the way the city is “used” by its inhabitants. According to Pr. Mora, this type of activity strongly contributes to social cohesion in cities, because it allows people from different social and geographical backgrounds to take ownership of the urban space. It is visible in the urban areas of Santiago Centro, Andrés Bello and Pocuro with the Central RecreoVías. “In most urban cycleways, people meet friends. In very local areas such as La Florida or Irarrázabal, people go with family, limit their trips outside the city, interact more in a neighbourhood square. While other Ciclovías recreativas that are empty during the week are now frequented during the weekends” says Mora. The Santiago Centro Ciclovía recreativa is one of the most attractive ones. A study showed that participants came from 17 cities/areas and, on average, travelled five kilometres to reach it. Pocuro area attracts people from 16 areas who travel just over four kilometres to reach this site.

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