The pandemic has brought quiet to the streets of Caracas. Lockdown measures and a shortage of gasoline have forced the country’s automotive park to a halt. But that hasn’t stopped Venezuelans, resourceful as ever, who have taken to other means of transport: Bicycles.
Cyclists are not a rare sight in some countries of Europe, Asia and Latin America. However, in Venezuela it is common for citizens to get around in motor vehicles guzzling really cheap gas (0.0010 USD per litre, according to the Global Petrol Prices). If one spots somebody riding the two wheels on the streets of any of the country’s cities, it’s safe to assume they’re athletes or people on their way to the park to take a leisurely stroll. Or at least it used to be.
Last March, the gasoline crisis that had been running for a year was exacerbated. This led citizens to turn their eyes to their long-neglected velocipedes. “The few times I have gone out on the street recently I have seen many more bicycles,” says Fernando Jáuregui in an interview with Climate Tracker. Jáuregui is the anchor and producer of Ecopracticas, a multimedia programme broadcast from the country’s capital.
Jáuregui thinks Venezuelans must overcome “the false myth” that to ride a bicycle we must be athletes. “Anyone in an average physical condition can move by bicycle”, he said. This has plenty of positive impacts and gradually improves their physical condition
New ventures in Venezuela use bicycles to overcome crises
“Every time UberBike comes out, it is one less family that has to leave home,” says Juan Morantes with confidence and enthusiasm. Morantes hails from the city of San Juan de los Morros, in the state of Guarico, some 150 km south from Caracas.
A month and a half ago, he kicked off UberBike, a new venture that began with a simple update of his WhatsApp status. UberBike aims to provide a delivery service. As simple as that: people order products and they get delivered to their door. But here’s the novelty: in the land of cars, it’s a cyclist who comes knocking.
With an approximate of 10 to 15 daily requests, Juan tells Climate Tracker that UberBike will continue to grow regardless of what happens with the shortage of gasoline. He highlights the environmental and social gains and awareness-rising in front of economic gains.
Both Morantes and Jáuregui agree that bicycles are here to stay due to the shortage of gasoline and failures in public transport. And not less because, they believe, when the supply is back in shape, gas will be sold at much higher prices than users are used to.
It is unknown how many initiatives like Uberbike have emerged in recent weeks, but many of these are visible on social networks. They have appeared in different cities of the country such as Valencia, Puerto La Cruz, Lecherías, Caracas y San Felipe.
The ability to respond to this crisis is encouraging, and even more so if it comes from an idea that cares for the environment and people’s physical health. Bicycles have the potential to generate culture, respect for the cyclist and even begin to build safe spaces for transit not only in Caracas but throughout the country.