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Searching for cycling infrastructure documents from South America: Process and reflections

Updated: Jun 1, 2022

Hi, I am Mariana and, for the past weeks, I have worked on expanding the diversity of documents in the Bicycle Infrastructure Manuals database. I am here to share a little bit of my experience searching for cycling-related documents and show some of the findings from South America.

As I studied Civil Engineering in Brazil, I am familiar with some keywords used in South America to refer to design manuals and strategy documents. In Brazil, we can always find strategy documents under “Plano Diretor” and technical guidelines under “Caderno Técnico”. For the Spanish-speaking countries, there are several expressions for strategy documents (just as “Plan maestro” and “Lineamientos estratégicos”), whereas guide (“Guía”) and manual (“Manual”) are prevailing for technical guidelines. By using these keywords, a great collection of documents was found and uploaded in the Bicycle Infrastructure Manuals database, such as these ones from Brazil, Chile, Peru, and Uruguay.

It is noteworthy that many documents focused on sustainable or active mobility rather than only cycling. There is an attempt to provide planners and designers with a holistic view of the traffic environment, so they can start integrating all road users, and not only the needs of motorized vehicles, in the design and decision-making process. For instance, the Caderno Técnico para Projetos de Transporte Ativo - Travessias Urbanas, a manual for the development of active transportation infrastructure from the state of Santa Catarina in Brazil, has four main sections (sidewalk, cycling infrastructure, universal accessibility, and road safety) and all of them include technical notes about cycling infrastructure. The following example is an extract of the sidewalk section illustrating how to design a sidewalk for the deviation of the cycle track behind a bus stop.

Similarly, the brand-new Guía para la Planificación de la Movilidad Sostenible en Uruguay has a straightforward structure highlighting actions, street interventions, and design that consistently integrate walking and cycling.

With similar keywords, but in French, I also found two documents from French Guiana, a design guideline and a compilation of strategy actions. From the design guideline, I was intrigued by the following table:

It presents potential favorable and unfavorable cycling infrastructure applications for particular traffic contexts. Certainly, this could be practical for traffic planners. But, in this specific example, the mixed bus-bicycle lane (“Couloir mixte bus vélo”) seems to be favorable for many cases in the table, which is hardly ever an appropriate solution for cyclists. Therefore, that reminded me of the importance of always reading these documents with a critical eye. After all, we all want to have (and provide) proper infrastructure.




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