The Ciclovía Recreativa: A Pathway to a More Just City

Ryan Guest holds an undergraduate degree in Global Studies and Spanish and recently completed his internship with Sustainable Cities through the CIDA/IYIP program. While working for the Planning Institute of Colima (IPCo), an SCI Network member, Ryan was responsible for marketing several community initiatives, including the promotion of a local Ciclovía program called Colima anDANDO.

In the year 2000, the city of Bogotá, approved the the largest “Car-Free Day” in the world through a municipal referendum.  This event is held annually and covers over 28,000 hectares of the city.

How do you spend your Sundays?  Rollerblading?  Riding a bike?  Skateboarding?  Walking?  Did you know that these types of activities can change transportation in your own city?  How?  Through community initiatives such as Ciclovías Recreativas. Bogotá and Guadalajara have had direct experience with this powerful phenomenon: Bogotá has the world’s largest and most extensive car-free day, and Guadalajara recently completed an exhaustive non-motorized mobility plan for the entire city.

For participants, “Ciclovías Recreativas” are an opportunity to enjoy Sundays with family and friends, where people of all ages are welcome.  However, these events have the power to change the way that we think about our streets, public spaces and transportation in general.   In the cases of Bogotá and Guadalajara, the success of “Ciclovías Recreativas” has amplified the discourse around quality of life and mobility within their own cities.

What is a Ciclovía Recreativa?

A “Ciclovias Recreativa”, “Pedestrian Sunday” or “Car-Free Sunday” encourages citizens or specific communities to reclaim their streets and provide public spaces for bicycles, roller blades and walking. Streets are temporarily closed to automobiles and space is designated for non-motorized social activities. A Ciclovía generally takes place on Sundays, lasting on average between 4 to 7 hours.  According to Project for Public Places ( , there are more than 46 cities holding Ciclovías or similar programs in Canada and U.S.

The Foundations of Ciclovías Recreativas

Bogotá: “La Ciclovía”

Bogotá, a city of more than 7 million inhabitants with high population density, had a reputation for high levels for crime, insecurity and pollution.  However, in 1976, the first Ciclovía Recreativa was inaugurated. Since this first event, the original “Ciclovía” has achieved remarkable success – including an average attendance of over 1,000,000 participants every Sunday between the hours of 7:00 am to 2:00 pm!

As a consequence of this success, the demand for options for cyclists had grown; among the strongest demands was the recognition of the bicycle as a serious mode of alternative transportation. This led to various plans for bicycle focused transport: by 2011 Bogotá had built more than 16 bicycle routes. Before the existence of this new infrastructure, only 0.4 percent of travel en Bogotá was by bicycle, more recently this number has increase to almost 5 percent.

Check out the StreetsFilm take on the “Ciclovía en Bogotá”:

Guadalajara: “Vía RecreActiva”

With the success of the “Ciclovia” in Bogotá, and as a solution to the problem of constant traffic congestion, a group of activists and citizens joined forces to develop a similar event. A Guadalajara based organization, collectively represented by a variety of communities in the city called “Ciudades Púbilicas” decided on the name “Vía RecreActiva” for Guadalajara’s own Ciclovía. By 2009, Vía RecreActiva had attracted on average more than 120,000 participants with a total of 60 kilometers of car-free streets every Sunday, between the hours of 8:00 am to 2:00 pm.

In a similar phenomenon to Bogotá, the demand for alternative transportation options grew out of the success of “Via RecreActiva” and by 2005, the Civil Association “Guadalajara 2020” (formed by members of Ciudades Públicas) had developed an exhaustive Non-Motorized Urban Mobility plan for the city of Guadalajara, including extensive plans for bike lanes.

In general, the benefits of Ciclovías Recreativas will  vary according to the values and socio-political characteristics of each community. However, as seen in the previous examples, these events often drive the theme of transportation into the larger public dialogue,eventually creating concrete initiatives over the long run.

Colima anDANDO:

This August 14th, Sustainable Cities International Network member Colima, Mexico will celebrate its first anniversary of Colima anDANDO, our very own Ciclovia Recreativa program.   Colima anDANDO is a local initiative of the City Council of Colima.  The objective is  to provide a public space for social cohesion through the promotion of circuits for running, walking or biking. The route is approximately 6km in length and has seen steady attendance.

Do you think Colima anDANDO could have the same effect in Colima, as similar programs have had in Guadalajara and Bogotá?

More information: “Ciclovías Recreativas of the Americas” An international network of Ciclovías Recreativas. “8-80 Cities” Experts in the design and implementation of Ciclovías. “Project for Public Spaces (PPS)” Project for Public Spaces (PPS) is a nonprofit planning, design and educational organization dedicated to helping people create and sustain public spaces that build stronger communities. “Guadalajara 2020”  An association formed by a group of citizens, academics, business owners to generate civic consciousness, private-public projects and unite all members of Tapatio society for the construction of  a metropolitan area that is more harmonious, sustainable, orderly and enjoyable.


About sustainablecitiesnetwork

Sustainable Cities International is a registered not-for-profit organization based in Vancouver, Canada. Operating since 1993, the mission of Sustainable Cities is to catalyze action on urban sustainability with cities around the world. We work by connecting and mobilizing people through the process of co-creating. We facilitate a thriving, international network of cities that act as urban laboratories: adopting, testing and improving on innovations. Ideas are accelerated through sharing of experience and cities are making transformational change a reality
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One Response to The Ciclovía Recreativa: A Pathway to a More Just City

  1. Pingback: The Six Guidelines for a Successful Ciclovía Recreativa | Sustainable Cities International blog

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