The Six Guidelines for a Successful Ciclovía Recreativa

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 my last blog post, The Ciclovía Recreativas: a Pathway to a More Just City, I wrote about how Ciclovías Recreativas can positively influence the public discourse around urban mobility and eventually produce concrete initiatives over the long run.

But how does a community or city develop a successful Ciclovía Recreativa program?

Like any successful project you’ll need a carefully thought out plan.  In the cases of both Bogotá and Guadalajara, it was necessary to develop a preliminary plan with guidelines that align with the objectives of each Ciclovía program.

The Key…

Before you start with this process, you’ll need to understand why this event will be important to your neighborhood or city.  As a community, you should be asking: Who are we? Why are moving forward with this initiative? Since objectives should reflect the values of the community; thoughtful and thorough consultation with all stakeholders is the most important part of the process.  With values that originate from the community, you will develop activities that reflect the ideals of your citizens.

There are various methods and tactics to create and implement a plan for a Ciclovía Recreativa or Car-Free Day. The following is a synthesis of our experience in Colima and the models proposed by organizations like, Las Ciclovías Recreativas de las Amerícas , 8-80 Cities y Streets are for People, who were instrumental in leading the events in Bogotá, Guadalajara and Toronto.

1.  Municipal Will and Political Involvement:

The municipality needs to be in support of any type of proposed Ciclovía Recreativa – this is the first and foremost component on your logistical list.  Municipal support will offer legitimacy to your event, plus municipal governments have entire departments dedicated to other necessities, such as public transportation and communications.  They are a key-stakeholder to win over in this process, and the level of support from a mayor can make or break the event.

2. Participation of Government and Public Institutions:

It is important to ensure collaboration across a variety of governmental sectors. In the case of transportation, you will want the participation of people living outside of the immediate community of your Ciclovía. Therefore it will be necessary to design, develop and implement transportation strategies with the public transportation department that allow participants to attend the event and return home safely.

Furthermore, it’s important to gain the support of the municipal or provincial health agency, as they can connect you with ambulances and first aid practitioners.

3. Communications, Marketing y Public Relations:

Ciclovías need to be promoted and marketed to residents.   Utilizing a combination of traditional media (radio, print, televisión, etc.) along with social media and other forms of publicity (See Colin Nekolaichuk’s article “Getting the Word Out in Mexico The Perifoneo is King”) can greatly increase attendance, often at minimal costs.

Additionally, by hosting simultaneous activities in the route of your Ciclovía Recreativa, you are able to tap into a different community every week.  For example, in Colima, we organized a marathon in collaboration with the local state televisión station (check out the photos on Facebook) These types of events are also particularly effective in attracting the media, as they provide a new story for your event from week to week.

4. Funds and Resources for the Operation of a Ciclovía Recreativa

To develop and secure the future of a ciclovía recreativa, cities need to set aside resources.  These funds are often a mix of municipal, state, federal and private investment . According to Olga L. Sarmiento de la Universidad de los Andes, the cost of operating the  “Ciclovía” en Bogotá is close to 2 million dollars per year! However, this should not be seen as an insurmountable obstacle as many Ciclovías are delivered on a very small budget, all depending on the size of the city and route.

5. Community Consultation and Participation:

In order to deliver a successful car-free day or ciclovía, there must be thorough and direct consultation with the community. Take the time to reach out to a local residents and merchants.  This can be done through surveying in the location of your proposed event, community meetings or door-to-door canvassing.  When you involve the community in this manner, the community will reciprocate and develop a sense of ownership with the event and the likelihood of success will be greater. You should also ensure that this consultation process includes city urban planning offices, public transportation, public safety and members of the city council.   This activity will make all these groups truly feel like indispensable parts of the success of the event.

The consultation should also ask specifically what residents and merchants would like to see in their Ciclovía, and the process should allow for incorporation of their ideas.

6. Employees y Volunteers:

These are the people that actually make the event happen.  You’ll need people to work, and assist prior and during the day of the event.  According to Via Recreativa in Guadalajara, they count on over 450 people to deliver their Ciclovia events.  However, in Colima with no more than 10 transit police, Colima operates Colima anDANDO every week.


Now you’re equipped to start your own Ciclovía Recreativa.  You only need a small group dedicated to the values of your community!

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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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