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Buenos Aires: Building a People-Friendly City

Buenos Aires is fast becoming one of the most admired cities in the world when it comes to reinventing streets and transportation.

Just over a year ago, the city launched MetroBus BRT (constructed in less than seven months) on 9 de Julio Avenue, which may be the world's widest street. The transformation of four general traffic lanes to exclusive bus lanes has yielded huge dividends for the city and is a bold statement from Mayor Mauricio Macri about how Buenos Aires thinks about its streets. More than 650,000 people now ride MetroBus every day, and it has cut commutes in the city center from 50-55 minutes to an incredible 18 minutes.

That's not the only benefit of this ambitious project. The creation of MetroBus freed up miles of narrow streets that used to be crammed with buses. Previously, Buenos Aires had some pedestrian streets, but moving the buses to the BRT corridor allowed the administration to create a large network of shared streets in downtown where pedestrians rule. On the shared streets, drivers aren't permitted to park and the speed limit is an astonishingly low 10 km/h. Yes, that is not a misprint -- you're not allowed to drive faster than 6 mph!

Bicycling has also increased rapidly in the past four years -- up from 0.5 percent mode share to 3 percent mode share and climbing. Ecobici is the city's bike-share system which is expanding to 200 stations in early 2015. Oh, and add this amazing fact: Ecobici is free for all users for the first hour.

Clarence Eckerson Jr. has been making fantastical transportation media in NYC since the late 1990s. He's never had a driver's license and never will.

13 Comments
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  • Kevin Love

    Bravo Clarence! Another great Streetsfilm.

    Which, sigh... makes us realize how much further and further New York City continues to fall behind. Not just falling behind Dutch cities, but even in Argentina other cities are making giant strides forward while New York is taking baby steps.

  • Alex Brideau III

    Woonerf!

  • Jeffrey Baker

    Another lovely video. If only our cities could learn to build a BRT line in 6 months. I'd be surprised if SF could even paint a bike lane in 6 months.

  • http://uprightbiker.blogspot.com/ Upright Biker

    "The cities belong to the people, not to the cars" a fellow says at the end. Someone obviously didn't give motorists in the U.S. the news.

  • Bluewndrpwrmlk96

    Another great video, indeed. Especially concerning Buenos Aires, a city I would love to visit in the future even more. It further illustrates the importance of not so heavily depending and orienting ourselves around the automobile, especially in New York City, where we are still trying to break our decades-long, outdated, auto-centric mindset.

    "The cities belong to the people, not to the cars." Will someone pass that memo to the NYPD?

  • Gezellig

    It's awesome to see BsAs do this!

    One welcome side effect of this too is shorter distances across moving auto traffic for pedestrians crossing 9 de Julio. I remember when I lived there ten years ago it was insanity trying to cross--I just simply avoided the area when possible.

    I wonder what spaces, if any, along 9 de Julio are currently slated for separated bikeways. There's more than enough right-of-way for that, too. In fact, if there's any place that's a better candidate for a two-way cycletrack on both sides of the avenue it's 9 de Julio.

    I'm really envious of the free bikeshare program--especially as a student really could've really used that, too!

  • AnoNYC

    Heavily restricted mixed mode streets should be required south of Canal Street with large sections of pure pedestrianization in the FiDi.

  • http://walkbikejersey.blogspot.com/ Andy B from Jersey

    Very nice video once again Clarence. The BRT rocked and so do the pedestrianized streets but those bike lanes were awfully narrow.

  • Gezellig

    Yeah, I noticed that, too. I'm guessing the hope is that they encourage lots of new bikership so they then have the political will to demand better (and wider) infrastructure.

  • Clarence

    I gotta say, it must be a regional thing. Many of the bike lanes we saw in Paraguay, Uruguay, and Argentina are on the narrow side. Interesting that although there are growing bike riderships, in any country it was very rare to see more than two or three cyclists per block even at rush hour. So until there becomes a bigger demand (I think soon) then I think activists have settled. But once those numbers increase, they'll need wider, yes. Have you seen some of the narrow-ness in my Montevideo video? A few of those are pretty narrow. https://vimeo.com/101046975

  • Rick Geller

    A superb video of a great city I've visited often. Thanks, Clarence.

  • sammy davis jr jr

    Great video! But too bad 19 de Julio has 18 lanes of traffic yet no bike lanes.

  • Gezellig

    According to the city of BsAs (see attached image) parts of Avenida 9 de Julio currently do have a protected cycletrack partway for several blocks on one of 9 de Julio's frontage streets--Irigoyen de Bernardo.

    9 de Julio's frontage streets actually have businesses and residences fronting them, unlike the central lanes of 9 de Julio, but they're effectively considered part of the whole 9 de Julio setup (in fact, your lane count of 18 is only that high if you also include 9 de Julio's frontage streets).

    Looks like the bikeway goes several blocks on 9 de Julio and then the route juts over to a parallel street a block away. Wouldn't be surprised if the network is expanded further in the future, but this is how it is now: