Pro-Bici is a local biking group that is currently involved in promoting Mendoza’s first bike path. The path will be in the middle of a commercial street that links the University Nacional de Cuyo with the yet-to-be-completed Metrotranvía, an urban light rail that we hope will be completed before we leave Mendoza. Ironically, the light rail is being laid exactly in the same spot where trains used to travel (not that different than Minneapolis laying light rail on the same routes where trains and even street cars once circulated). In fact, everyday I bike by the site and see them ripping up the old rail lines as they prepare to lay the new rail. Construction on the bike path has begun, but not without opposition.
Local business owners on the commercial street are afraid of losing their parking spaces and of losing business. They claim they were never consulted about the bike path. A few weeks back they hung up huge banners, protesting the path. I rode up and down the street and talked to some of the owners about their perspective. Understandably, they are being protective of what they see as their individual interests. They don’t yet see the path as an asset and, they argue, a commercial thoroughfare is not the place for a bike path. I know Minneapolis has dealt with where to best place bike paths and commercial streets are often not the first choice for commuting bike lanes.
The proponents in Mendoza, on the other hand, argue that the corridor is a vital link between the university and the light rail and that people just don’t yet have the awareness around the need for bike-specific paths and lanes.
Just recently the local paper published an article slamming cyclists for illegally using urban highways. I plan to write the paper and ask for some coverage that supports urban biking. There are certainly many cyclists here in the city. One group, which is novel for me, is the postal carriers. All of the carriers in the city center and neighboring residential areas use bikes! The reality, however, is that Mendozan drivers are, at worst, somewhat hostile to cyclists, and at best, simply inexperienced in dealing with cyclists. (That said, Mendozan drivers are inexperienced overall with regards to driving etiquette and rules of the road). We’ll see what transpires on this front over the coming months.