Costa Rica isn't just a natural paradise with beaches, waterfalls, and rainforests, the nation is also progressing towards a utopian future. The nation is one of the most ambitious in becoming a zero-carbon country by 2050 with extensive agendas from cyclists.
Costa Rican President Carlos Alvarado Quesada said that 'we are the heirs of a beautiful tradition of innovation and change," in a speech at Stanford. 'That's why we're doing this: not because it's fashionable, but because it's an ethical responsibility ... it's not an option, it's a must.' The nation now runs on 99.5% clean and renewable energy production, believed to be a stepping stone for their decarbonization vision.
However, even with their environmental programs, ecotourism, and rich biodiversity, one hindrance to achieving utopia in 30 years lies within their capital city, San José. Bad traffic and public transport go against being eco-friendly as the transport sector is responsible for 54& of the entire nation's greenhouse gas emissions.
In Latin America, they rank the third-highest in car ownership rates and it continues to increase. Cladia Dobles, the first lady, said in a sustainability event that even though Costa Ricans pride themselves in having their own vehicles, they 'need to have a serious, deep national dialogue on what are the real challenges that we face in public transport.' As an architect and urban planner, she challenged her people with two questions: 'What is the vision we have for Costa Rica, how do we really want Costa Rica to get itself around?'
Even with high car ownership rates, many citizens in San José actively participate for a greener city, especially cyclists. There had cycle routes born from years of campaigning as well as efforts for a connected network of bike lanes.
Andrea San Gil, the founder of the Centre for Urban Sustainability, noted how bicycle usage and sales increased since the pandemic lockdown. The environmental engineer shared that 'A lot of people will have at least tried it and got familiar with the terrain and then liked it,' hoping that they will continue this eco-friendly habit.
Lockdown has become an opportunity to push for more action. San Gil adds that they are 'trying to just do the same as a lot of other cities have done: to widen sidewalks, close roads and just redistribute space so that people can cycle and walk more and do it safely.'
David Gomez, a mobility consultant, founded Bicibus - providing San José citizens with bike advice within their city. He had been part of the campaigns 10 years ago, including a small group of activists, A Bikepath for San Jose, who helped pave the way for urban cycleways.
Gomez also talked about the two major changes for urban cycling. 'The construction of cycleways and, more recently, the deployment of a public bike system, Omnibikes... a dockless e-bike firm that charges per journey.' The bike-share scheme has even reached some of the poorest communities, shared economist and urban planner Federico Cartin Arteaga.
All these clean and green efforts are only the beginning for cyclists; they still only have a single east-to-west corridor. Gomez shared that 'Once we have a fully connected network, inter-provincial, and everything, then I think we'll start seeing an increase in ridership and of course, an impact in carbon emissions.'