Happy trails to DF

The pedestrian path along Calle Ferrocarríl de Cuernavaca in Mexico City’s Lomas de Chapultepec is thronged by meandering professionals, most seeking a bit of sunshine before returning to their climate-controlled workday. A young woman on a bicycle maneuvers through the crowd and comes to a stop in front of a stainless steel kiosk, where a man helps her dismount.

“Look at that smile, see how happy she is.”

The man collects the woman’s helmet and fluorescent green safety vest then parks her bicycle next to a dozen or so identical models.

“For most people, riding a bicycle is the best memory from their childhood,” he says.

Part carnival barker, part evangelist, Antonio Suárez is the proprietor of the Cicloestación Ciudad de México, an endeavor dedicated to promoting “non-motorized mobility.” Suárez passionately delivers his gospel to passersby.

“The number of cars on the road here is unsustainable! We need to get people using bicycles, both for the good of the city and fo their own health. ”

Bikes are offered free for one hour’s use (with an ID), and the Cicloestación Lomas and its sister branch in Coyoacán offer weekend group tours of Chapultepec Park and Coyoacán for $100 pesos per person. From the Lomas station, cyclists can cruise the 90 kilometers of bike trails that follow the city’s abandoned railroad tracks.

Suárez, a professor in UNAM ’s landscape school, and his associate Pedro Camarena, a professor in the architecture school, are also partners in Balam, a 15-year old ecotourism consultancy. Balam helped ejido community San Nicolas Totolapan (in the rural south of Mexico City) develop successful hiking and mountain biking tourism. It also built eight rural bike stations in Mexico City, Mexico State and Michoacán, and hosts a semi-annual ecotourism conference in Valle de Bravo. The Lomas and Coyoacán stations are their first urban projects.

“I want to see [the cyclists] everywhere in the city, in their green vests, like insects,” says Suárez.

Adelina Romero Aguirre works at the Nextel offices across the street from the ciclovia.

“I love this project,” Romero Aguirre says. “Something has to be done, not just to reduce the number of cars on the road, but also for our health. Kids today have so many health problems.”

Suárez takes a holistic view of the Cicloestación’s benefits. “What we’re doing is urban acupuncture…we want to keep the good energy flowing.”

Fun, fast and free

The Cicloestación is located on the pedestrian walkway of Ferrocarríl de Cuernavaca, in Lomas de Chapultepec, near Manuel Avila Camacho. It is open from 7 am to 5 pm during the week, and 10 am to 3:30 pm on weekends. Call Antonio Suárez at (044 55) 2428 1488 to arrange a bike tour. To learn more about Proyecto Balam, go to balam.org.mx.