Meet the new poster child for bicycle urbanism. Buenos Aires is the only city in this year's Index to harvest maximum bonus points and then fly into the Top 20 on a steady tailwind. In a shockingly short amount of time, Buenos Aires has succeeded in modernising itself to include bicycles as transport. In the past three years, over 140 km of bicycle infrastructure has been implemented - much of it protected - along with a bike share programme. Buenos Aires proves that the success of Seville was not a one-off. They have showed that with the right political will and investment a large city can transform itself for the new millennium. It's not all about the bike. Buenos Aires is focusing on the big picture - becoming a more liveable city in general. Bus rapid transit lines, traffic calmed streets - all good for city life and all good for putting the bike back on the landscape. Many cities talk of how cycling is rising fast. In Buenos Aires they can talk of how cycling levels are exploding. At the moment, Baires is the city to watch.
The only other contender in South and Central America is Rio de Janeiro, who see themselves dropping out of the Top 20 after featuring in both of the previous Indexes. They were leapfrogged by Buenos Aires but are still in the Top 30. Santiago is a buzz with activity but not enough to break into the elite ranks. Sao Paulo is content with some paint here and there and Bogota struggles to maintain cycling levels that they built up 20 years ago. Elsewhere in this vast region there is focus on cycling for transport but no city can match Buenos Aires for drive, vision and political will except Rio de Janeiro.
Let's be clear. Buenos Aires is very much a work-in-progress. Many of the protected bike lanes are narrow, bi-directional stretches along the curb - not the best part of the asphalt. Like in many Emerging Bicycle Cultures, photos of obstacles in the bike lanes abound on the internet. The seeds have been planted, the garden is growing but now the city must cultivate it. The bicycle is competitive as a transport form but to go from here, the city needs to invest in high quality infrastructure and Best Practice solutions. More space for bicycle infrastructure, better facilities and a better connected network are the next steps.