Last week, while attending an international conference in Santiago about mobility and inequality (http://www.santiagosemueve.com/), I got a chance to bike around the sprawling Chilean capital. The whole experience was deeply inspiring, I can’t wait to return.
Granted, there’s a ton of smog, extreme inequality and roaming dogs that like to chase bikes (and taxis) for reasons that remain a mystery to me.
And yet, a grassroots cycling invasion is transforming Santiago into a new, and arguably better, city. Cycling isn’t always advancing democracy or equality (for example, new lanes and leadership are concentrated in gentrifying communes, especially Providencia). But community leaders (e.g. Lake Sagaris) and DIY cycling movements (e.g. http://bicipaseospatrimoniales.cl/) are help making cycling more accessible, legitimate and safe. And the car, in contrast, with private toll roads to gated communities, is being used effectively by rich elites in Santiago to exclude and ignore poor people and their neighborhoods, and further fracture a city still scarred by Pinochet’s military dictatorship.
And putting street politics and history aside for a moment, the empanadas are delicious…