Mexico’s Ideamos Program Shows Bicycles Are Moving More than People

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For decades people in cities around the world have been using bicycles for so much more than passenger travel. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a global uptick in bicycle, e-bike, cargo bike, and e-cargo bike use for the delivery of mail, medicine, groceries, meals, and other supplies. In India, for example, bicycle mayors led efforts to deliver essential goods to residents in need using bicycles: 725 volunteers served 2,500 people across 13 Indian cities. In Mexico, the Ideamos Program is shifting how people think about bicycles, promoting cycling as a resilient transport mode that improves access to essential goods through local deliveries. 

Ideamos kicked off in January 2020 to promote a sustainable and inclusive mobility ecosystem in Mexico, and was well-positioned to help communities respond to the challenges presented by COVID-19 when the pandemic hit just a few months later. The program focuses on implementing pilots in collaboration with Transportation Network Companies (like Uber and Cabify), local governments, private companies, and civil society organizations. 

Four pilots were carried out between April and September of 2020. One of the most impactful was Rodando Ayuda, which brought together twelve separate organizations to deliver essential goods to vulnerable populations. The pilot lasted two months and reached more than 2,500 people, delivering more than 700 pantries (1 pantry = about a month’s worth of food and supplies for a family of 4) to families severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Delivery relied on bicycles and delivery people were trained in road safety and health protocols. Lessons learned from Rodando Ayuda inspired a follow-up project, Rodando Juntas, in 2021. Recognizing that local delivery by couriers had become a critical mechanism for all types of people to access goods they might need, Rodando Juntas aims to further improve working conditions for the growing number of delivery people in three mexican cities, while also promoting the democratization of delivery apps, and the use of sustainable urban shipping supported by bicycles, electric bicycles, cargo bikes, and other forms of micromobility. 

Ideamos supported four additional pilots in 2021, including VanCiclo, which aims to provide an alternative to car trips by adding cycle racks to shared vans. The pilot focused on three Urbvan (a shared van service provider) routes. One with plenty of cycling infrastructure and two that are particularly challenging for cycling with hilly topography and no cycle lanes. This way, people could cycle for part of the trip, and take a shared van the rest of the way. The final pilot MOVIN, which is ongoing through March 2022, brought together ten companies located along the Paseo de la Reforma Corridor– Mexico City’s Central Business District. The companies collaborated to create a mobility plan that encourages their employees to use sustainable modes offered along Reforma like pedestrian spaces, cycle lanes, and vanpool routes to commute to work. 

While the Ideamos pilots are, and have been, short and limited in scope, they were also relatively low cost and quick to implement. This meant that people could experience a different way to move around or deliver goods almost overnight. By providing reliable, safe alternatives to vehicles, the pilots demonstrated new possibilities and offered additional mobility options where they hadn’t been previously: By adding bicycle racks to shared vans, the VanCiclo project allowed people to go further by bicycle, perhaps rethinking the need to use a private car for what had previously been an unfeasible trip to make by bicycle. Building on Rodando Ayuda, the Rodando Juntas project promotes the rapidly-expanding cycle-based delivery sector, all while protecting the rights of cycle couriers. Notably, more and better-quality cycle lanes, combined with increased access to different types of bicycles, could further expand both personal cycling and the cycle delivery sector, yielding co-benefits such as reduced emissions, congestion, and traffic crashes as more trips are made using safe cycle lanes instead of vehicles. Indeed, several pilots have plans to scale up in the future for an even greater impact.

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