Non-motorised mobility and the steering force of the Organised Civil Society in Guadalajara, Mexico.

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Non-motorised mobility and the steering force of the Organised Civil Society towards a sustainable urban mobility. The case of Guadalajara, Mexico. Regina Orvañanos Murguía; Juan Ponce Briseño Laboratorio de Tecnología Urbana Ottawa 1673 int. 4 Colonia Providencia Guadalajara, Jal. Tel (52) 33 3641 1661 Abstract Over recent years, the urban mobility in Guadalajara, Mexico has reached negative levels on urban efficiency and quality of life, becoming one of the biggest problems on the territory. The crisis of mobility has triggered new behaviours on the population. For the first time, the organised society has steered the urban policies of the city, developing inclusive participation mechanisms between Civil Society Organisations (CSO), Professional Associations (PA) and Public Institutions (PI). This new collaborative dynamic among stakeholders has generated a multiplier effect in the construction of citizenship, integrating innovative approaches towards a sustainable mobility in the metropolitan area. The following article evaluates the role of the civil society in the advocacy process for Non-Motorised Transport (NMT). The objective is to analyse the actions and achievements of the groups from the civil society; within the local, social, historical and urban juncture. Based on the methodology of analysis proposed by CIVICUS1, the article examines the four dimensions of the civil society: the structure, the external environment, the values and impacts of their actions. If sustainable mobility involves the reconversion of the city to human scale, then planning for sustainable mobility can be reached through micro-policies based on human scale actions. The case study shows mobility planning as a social process, rather than a product. Through the institutionalisation of their actions, citizens’ efforts have shown positive results guiding Guadalajara towards a more sustainable mobility. Keywords Non Motorised Transport, Public Participation, Social Groups, Bicycle movement, Advocacy, Guadalajara, Mexico


CIVICUS, n.d. 1 / 10

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1 INTRODUCTION Sustainable transport has emerged as one of the most challenging urban sectors on every growing city. Transport represents the biggest sector of CO2 emissions in cities. A study in Guadalajara revealed that 68% of the air pollution is attributable to the cars2. While there are strong global efforts to globally reduce transport-related emissions, including the promotion of softer mobility modes, the rate of vehicle ownership worldwide is predicted to increase from 800 million cars in 2000 to 2 billion in 20303. Implementing a functional urban sustainable mobility is a costly exercise, but not having one is even more expensive. The collapse of urban mobility is attributable to several factors: the failure of traditional urban planning practices, the increasing motorisation rates, the lack of law enforcement, corruption in the urban development, lack of institutional coordination between different levels of government, among many intricate private economical interests affecting the development of cities. As international tendencies towards sustainable transport evolve into a mobility paradigm favouring urban accessibility; cities are challenged on how to incorporate bike-friendly infrastructure into the existent urban grid. Non-motorised transport has been proven to provide a quick, safe, convenient and healthy way to travel in many cities around the world4. Worldwide examples like Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Portland, Bogota, Paris or New York are taken as best practices of implementation and their experiences being replicated. In Amsterdam and Copenhagen, leaders in the promotion of urban cycling, 37 to 55 percent of their residents cycle to school or work. Such high modal shares were only made possible through decades of investment in the necessary road infrastructure5. More and more city governments are taking pro-active measures to improve their transport systems; but stronger efforts are needed. With the international tendency to incorporate NMT facilities, local governments commit to its support, but fail to allocate enough investment to see a visible change through the new infrastructure. In an attempt of retrofitting NMT facilities into existing streets, cities import toolkit-based solutions into the urban fabric. They forget the fact that infrastructure alone will not guarantee an increase of popularity for walking and cycling. A weakness of the toolkit approach is that it may lead to a view of urban transport as a product instead of as a process. A missing factor sometimes overlooked on city investments based on toolkit solutions is the human behaviour and mobility habits. As David Brooks points out6, we are living the result of decades of gigantic policies producing disappointing results, because they are based on oversimplified views of


CEJ, 2009


World Resources Institute, n.d.


Jong & Kim, 2010




Brooks, 2011 2 / 10

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the human behaviour. Like Brooks, David Cameron mentions that we are in the age of behaviour7. This behaviour is reflected in the way people use and move in cities.

2 GUADALAJARA, MEXICO AS A CASE STUDY Guadalajara, with 4,364,069 million inhabitants8, is the second largest city in Mexico. The Metropolitan Area of Guadalajara (MAG) is conformed by eight municipalities extending over approximately 2,149 square kilometres9. Its average density is 1600 inhabitants and 710 vehicles per square kilometre10. The sprawled, horizontal city with very low density in its urban centres is a consequence of the inability of the available planning mechanisms to set boundaries against uncontrolled urban expansion. This resulted in an urban model with low efficiency on its urban commuting, encouraging modes of transport based on private vehicles. Over years, public investments have benefitted the hegemony of private cars on the streets. At the national level, between 15 and 20% of public budget is assigned to transport11; in Guadalajara, 83% of public investment in 2010 (USD$155,710.00 out of USD$191’721,524.00) was oriented to car-oriented infrastructure12. As a consequence, the city has experienced a rapid motorization in the last decade. In 2000 there were 4.6 inhabitants per motor vehicle; number that decreased to 2.4 inhabitants per unit in 2007: a rate ten times higher than the population growth13. This represents a private vehicle increase by four times in the last 20 years14. Nevertheless, the majority of inter-urban trips are still relly on non-motorised ways and public transport; 37.4% walking, 2.2% cycling and 27.2% public transport. Only 28.3% of the trips are made on cars15. Moreover, the choices of transport modes show a clear geographic distribution. The majority of trips on public transport and NMT modes occur in the north and eastern ends of the city- areas clearly defined by their levels of marginality, low income and lack of basic urban services. On the contrary, the west and south, areas defined by the higher income of its inhabitants, produce the majority of the private motorised trips. On average, households in Guadalajara invest between USD$140 and USD$245 monthly for their everyday trips, which represents 17.4 to 30% of an average income of USD$80016.


Cameron, 2010.


INEGI, National Census 2010


CEJ, 2009




Declaración de Guadalajara


Gobierno del Estado de Jalisco. 2008.


CEJ, 2009


Declaración de Guadalajara


Gobierno del Estado de Jalisco, 2008


Declaración de Guadalajara, and author’s calculations. 3 / 10

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In sum, the NMT users have been systematically forgotten and left behind by public policies. Not only has this produced a chronic mobility and environmental crisis, it has also affected the loss of public realm, giving it to the domain of the car. The described mobility crisis has set the ground for a movement for sustainable mobility to emerge; which can be regarded as the foundations of a paradigm swift in public participation and planning. This has been the result of strong lobbying from the civil society that has echoed among some receptive officials from the different levels of government.

3. THE ROLE OF CIVIL SOCIETY ORGANISATIONS The World Bank defines civil society as “the wide array of non-governmental and notfor-profit organisations that have a presence in public life, expressing the interests and values of their members, based on ethical, cultural, political, scientific, religious or philanthropic considerations”17. The term incorporates a wide range of organisations from community groups, non-governmental organisations, labour union, professional associations, and foundations, among others. The World Bank recognises that the influence of Civil Society Organisations (CSO) on shaping global public policy has emerged over the past two decades placing themselves as shapers of public opinion and facilitators’ of social change18. Likewise in Guadalajara, diverse organisations of the civil society have engaged with enthusiast in the promotion of sustainable mobility to the point of integrating a social movement. In the past years, they have placed themselves in a position to influence public policies as well as the processes of planning. The notion of NMT planning as a social process has helped the movement by ensuring a critical mass of users and promoters strong enough to steer transport policies. Over the years, active mobility has gained public acceptance, and the relations between civil society and public institutions regarding the topic have improved. Yet, it was not the same a decade ago. In 2002, an attempt by the municipality to build a bike lane was abruptly interrupted by the opposition of a group of twelve neighbours. This failed attempt resulted in the dismantling of the half built cycle lane, becoming a proof of unsuccessful participation. Five years later, in 2007, as part of an intervention by the artist Severine Schläepfer during the urban planning forum COM:PLOT; a performance consisting of painting a temporal bike lane resulted in 50 cyclists arrested under claims of damage to the public domain. Today, through the committed efforts of the organised civil society, the situation has dramatically changed; they have become active citizens exercising their rights to urban accessibility and improved street life granted by active mobility modes. As explained by Margaret Crawford and Michael Speaks, the term Everyday Urbanism was developed to show how the street life can shape the human dynamics


World Bank, n.d.


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and the place identity as a way to analyse people’s behaviour on their daily life19. The concept of Everyday Urbanism can be applied as a tool for the behaviour analysis in urban environments. It is important to understand how the on-street human dynamics evolve into this new steering force of urban planning policies. One could argue that a single event, that unveiled the on-street human dynamics, was the detonator to Guadalajara’s bike movement. Guadalajara’s Vía RecreActiva (Car Free Sunday) began in 2004 by initiative of the business association Guadalajara 2020 to recuperate the street life to pedestrians and cyclists on a weekly basis. The Via RecreActiva has evolved to cover 64 km of urban corridors with 245,000 assistants each weekend20. It has become one of the largest and most successful examples of its kind, and a trademark for the city. This success story had a profound effect on the self-awareness of the civil society and its capacity to trigger positive changes. This was followed by the emergence of multiple associations and citizen’s groups supporting a soft mobility agenda and the necessary urban model to sustain it. Bike lobby groups worked to increase its attractiveness as a mode of transport by promoting perception-changing activities. Simultaneously, new interests appeared on active citizens, particularly among the youth, regarding their capacity to be involved in the city’s development. Through their growing awareness on transport, sustainability, insecurity and public space; the new organisations found allies on consolidated groups with decades of experience like the Colectivo Ecologista Jalisco, In Guadalajara, the NMT movement emerged as a multi-dimensional movement operating between local places and global spaces. The working mechanisms relied on organised networks, local and virtual; finding inspiration, empathy and support through global examples on social networks. The congregation of heterogeneous group of CSOs into a social movement responded to the self-identification and common objectives of achieving sustainable mobility. According to Castells, social movements are “purposive collective actions aimed at changing the values and interests institutionalised in society”21. The involvement and identification with a movement provided them with an identity: a common struggle and an ideal to follow. For them, “identity becomes a source of meaning and inspiration for alternative projects of social organisation and institution building”22. In the past years, the civil society has been able to mobilise a critical mass of sympathisers; to involve the population in activities that re-dignify urban mobility and accessibility of public spaces. With more than 20 events every week, nocturnal bike rides became a habitude on the city. The most popular one is the monthly “Paseo de Todos”. Organised by GDL en Bici, is now reaching its 50th edition. It has gather in the past up to 4000 assistants at a time. It is a recreational thematic ride that 19

Chase, 1999


8-80 Cities, n.d.


Castells, 20007


Castells, 2007. p.248 5 / 10

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concludes with concerts or other public activities, where people attend disguised or with decorated bikes23. ”People participate, enjoy, learn, and later realise that they have taken part on a rally for a new mode of transport”,24 recounts Yeriel Salcedo, a well-know local bike activist. Other activities organised by the CSOs occur throughout the city: rides where volunteers share the experience on tandem bicycle with visually impaired (Paseo a Ciegas). Elsewhere, the Ghost Bike movement involves the placement of a memorial white bike to keep the missing record of road accidents where pedestrians and cyclists have been injured. Both cases have made evident the intentions of citizens’ groups to entitle the pedestrian and cycler in their place within the city. Others organise brigades to improve public spaces, turn parking space into temporary parks, or put together a public talk to discuss mobility topics with the general public. As the demand for better mobility grows on popularity, different strategies are used to push for changes in the public agenda. This second line of action, parallel to the enthusiasm generated by promotional activities may have less visibility but achieves a higher impact. The main actors in this process are groups of professionals and academia with high degree of technical expertise: architects and urbanists, environmentalists, academia, and business groups, environmental groups, etc. With their actions, they aims to respond the gap between public institutions and social expectations. It is only in the dialectic and complementary relations between the citizens’ groups and the professional associations and their relation to public institutions that one can understand the relevance of the NMT movement in the context of Guadalajara. Their constructive dialogue has generated a spiral between increased demand and augmented capacity to fulfil them. The strategy, in words of the Chilean bike activist Amarilis Horta Tricallotis, is based on the assumption that urban transformations require longer time frames as those of the political period of city authorities25. With political terms of local governments as short as three years, the civil society is the required connection to guarantee the continuity of urban processes. In 2008, the Civil Council for Sustainable Mobility was created, summoned by the municipality of Zapopan (a municipality conforming the MAG), but after a change of government, it continued operating independently. The objective of such council was to become an observatory of mobility policies, under a philosophy of reflection, analysis, discussion and proposal. Through this platform, the Civil Council requested the elaboration of a Master Plan for Non Motorised Urban Mobility (MPNMUM); which was prepared between 2009 and 2010. By demand of the civil society, it was commissioned to local consultants (AU Consultores), in order to increase the local capacity, but integrated the technical assistance from agencies like Alta Planning, Walk for Life and ITDP. The MPNMUM resulted on a high quality technical tool, with 23

La Jornada Jalisco, 2011


Biciketas, 2010


Martinez, 2010, 6 / 10

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extensive public participation and the first real exercise of mobility planning at the Metropolitan level. The process of elaboration became a true dialogue between citizen’s groups, technical experts and public institutions. It has become a guide for implementing NMT interventions; even thou the document has not been ratified as a ruling instrument. Following its competition, the authorities made public compromises to adequate over 351 kilometres of street to active transit, as recommended by the plan for the first stage. Nevertheless, the critical change at every level of decision-makers has not yet arrived. The political will has not been strong enough to swift completely the mobility paradigm, and some current projects are still not aligned to the objectives of pro-NMT policies. Nevertheless over 57km of bike ways have been built, although only 23km of them in the core city. Desiring a more extensive NMT network, in January 2011, another youth group called Ciudad para Todos decided to take action and selfimplement bike infrastructure. They fund raised and built the first citizen’s bike lane and repeated the exercise three times, reaching 13km. The lanes were chosen based on the technical recommendation by the MPNMUM, and eventually were recognised as official by the transit authorities.

4. INSTITUTIONALISATION OF THE ACTIONS The institutionalisation of the mobility movement has been a continuous process of increasing democracy. The civil council evolved to become the “Metropolitan Platform for Sustainability”. Through investments in their own capacity building, it has engaged in a continuous process of professionalization which includes the publication of analysis documents, public statements and declarations. It has turn into a transport policy observatory, promoting clear and direct actions for the governments to improve urban mobility; it has strengthened the social infrastructure for public participation. Participation, in words of Gaventa is “the ways in which people exercise voice through new forms of deliberation, consultation and /or mobilisation designated to inform and to influence larger institutions and policies”26. The advocacy process has extended to suggest improvements to the mobility legal framework. Two legal instruments with direct repercussion to the topic have been created in the past years: a new Urban Code (Código Urbano, 2008) for the territorial development at a metropolitan level and more specifically, the Urban Development Code (Reglamento de Desarrollo Urbano 2010). Thanks to the lobbying, the Urban Development Code recognises the cyclist as a vehicle and the pedestrian as the basic unity of public space; it also acknowledges the need of mass transit urban corridors that incorporate inter-modality. It defines as well non-motorised transport, integral accessibility regulations and the guidelines for building bike infrastructure. These concepts ought to be updated in the transit code, but the lobbying process is well undergoing.


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Urban development and mobility planning are closely intricate, which is why the planning dimension is of central interest to the CSO groups. Taking advantage of the fortified social infrastructure, the metropolitan planning institute was recently created thanks to the strong advocacy of organisations like CITA and CEJ. The Metropolitan planning institute will be conformed by political, technical and citizen bodies. Its mandate is to coordinate planning actions in mobility and urban services such as water and waste management. The results of the bike movement have transcended the city boundaries. As part of the national bike network, non-motorised mobility has been included in the budget allocations of the metropolitan funds that are distributed among the country’s 32 metropolitan areas.

5. CONCLUSIONS Previous urban paradigms have convinced us that gigantic public investments are necessary to achieve better living spaces. Above everything, the idea of productbased solutions to urban problems rather than focusing on building social processes has resulted in the importation of external solutions that dismiss the transformative power that cities have. If sustainable mobility involves the reconversion of the city to the human scale, then planning for sustainable mobility can be reached through micro-policies based on human scale actions. The shared aspiration and desires of better standards of life in the cities, and the highly social disagreement with the current urban model, triggered some small but significant efforts by a few CSOs groups, creating a profound change on the vision and behaviour of the people in Guadalajara. This collective effort from the civil society organisations, upon thousands of small actions, have demonstrated in the last five years the capacity of planning and transforming urban mobility from a bottom up-approach. Some actions of the urban transformation haven’t yet reflected on the infrastructure, but in the everyday routine is showing some examples; the volume of bike importations grew 105 per cent from 2008 to 2011. In interview, shop-owners from Guadalajara declared to have experienced sales increase ranging 30%- 50% since 200727 demonstrating the increase of the bike-economy related in Guadalajara. The recognition to Guadalajara’s efforts is slowly breaking through. The city is mentioned by UNEP as one of the numerous cities that have moved away from the older car-centric urban model28. Likewise, the organisation Copenhagenize published in 2011 an index about bicycle-friendly cities. Among 80 major cities around the world, Guadalajara was rated 12th; above cities like London, San Francisco or New York. Among the reasons for such recognition the organisation states an impressive increase in modal share over the past five years due to the efforts at promoting urban 27

Diario en bici, n.d.


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cycling29. The socio-spatial dialectics show that the influence of human behaviour on the spatial dimension is as strong as the opposite direction: the influence of human mobility patterns will reshape and eventually transcend to the built environment. Steven Reed Johnson from Portland says that efforts are comparable to a marathon competition rather than to a speed race30, it takes a lot of work and time, but like similar cases around the world, they keep going and improving their own achievements. This is possible because they understand the principle expressed by Eric Britton: “there are no more resources in the world to keep doing the things as always, we have to find new ways31”.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Thanks to all the groups that helped through the consultations: Alfredo Hidalgo (CITA), Maria Elena de la Torre (Ciudad para Todos), Patricia Martinez (GDL en Bici), Yeriel Salcedo (GDL en Bici), Ricardo Agraz, Carlos Romero (OCOIT), Hector Castañon (Plan V), Mario Silva (CEJ), Steve Johnson Reed, Luis Alberto Aguirre, Itzel Velarde (LTU), Emmanuel Lyva (LTU) and Monica Franco (LTU).

REFERENCES Reports: CEJ (2009) “Inventario de emisiones contaminantes de los vehículos automotores en la Zona Metropolitana de Guadalajara”, Guadalajara, 2009. (Online) at: Gobierno Del Estado De Jalisco. “Estudio de demanda multimodal de desplazamientos en la Zona Metropolitana de Guadalajara. Encuesta de origen y destino”, Guadalajara, 2008. Journal articles: Brooks, D.: "The Unexamined Society" New York Times, OP-ED July 7, 2011. Castells, M. “Communication, Power and Counter-power in the Network Society” International Journal of Communication 1. 238-266, (2007) Gaventa, J. “Exploring Citizensihp, Participation and Accountability. IDS Bulletin, Vol. 22, No. 2, 2002 Jong, R., & Kim, P. High time to change road investment patterns in Africa. Urban World , (2010)


Copenhagenize, 2011


Johnson, 2011


Britton, 2011 9 / 10

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Martinez, P. “La cultura de la bici es una corriente de liberación” in Blog de la Redaccion. Magis, (2010) (online) Links: 8-80 Cities, n.d. , Last accessed on June 29, 2012 Biciketas, (2010) Last accessed on June 29, 2012. Cameron, D.: "The next age of government" TED Talks Feb. 2010., Last accessed on June 29, 2012. Civicus (2009) f, last accessed on June 29, 2012. Copenhaguenize, (2011) accessed on June 29, 2012.,


Diario en bici, (n.d.), Last accessed on June 29, 2012 La Jornada Jalisco, (2011) =004o2pol Last accessed on June 29, 2012. World Bank (n.d) , Last accessed on June 29, 2012. World Resources Institute (n.d.) accessed on June 21, 2012. Other: Johnson, S. (2011) Private Interview in the frame of the International Architecture and Planning Forum COM:PLOT, Guadalajara, Mex. 2011. Britton, E.(2011) Workshop in the frame of the X International Congress Towards Carfree Cities, Guadalajara, Mex. 2011 INEGI, National Census, 2010

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