Now a 7km journey takes half as long as by car or bus, and cyclist numbers have quintupled

Buenos Aires, one of the most congested cities in the world, has become an unlikely cycle haven, thanks to measures by the Mayor to make the South American capital more bike-friendly.

Concerned about the extent of traffic jams, Mayor Mauricio Macri decided it was time to transform the popular notion of the bike as simply an exercise machine, and this year announced the completion of the 100th kilometre of protected bike lanes in the city, reports The Economist.

“Bikes were seen solely as tools for exercise and recreation, and people thought we were completely mad to encourage them as a means of commuting,” says Guillermo Dietrich, the official in charge of the scheme.

But when a local newspaper, La Nación, discovered that a 7km journey in the city was twice as fast by bike as by bus or car, the idea began to take off.

Soon there followed a new public bike hire scheme, much like London’s Boris bikes, with bright yellow cycles available for free to both locals and tourists after registration.

This year the city plans to add 30km of cycle lanes, to double the number of public bikes and add another 72 docking stations. In fact, it will then boast the densest cycle infrastructure in the region; a sort of South American Holland.

What’s interesting about the Argentinian scheme, as opposed to the blue painted Cycle Superhighways in London, was that the Buenos Aires mayor saw it necessary to erect barriers between the motorised traffic and nearly all the new cycle lanes.

He also made changes to city laws to ensure that any new or renovated garage has a bicycle parking area within it, as a nod to the high rates of cycle theft in the city.

And although progress has been modest, with only 2 per cent of journeys made by bike, it’s a comparatively significant shift: a five-fold increase in bicycle use, and, according to Argentina Independent, there’s a 50 per cent increase in the number of bikes being bought.

Here's another video of one of the kerbed lanes - as ever, cyclists need to be vigilant of vehicles turning across their path.

After an unpromising start, having to be bribed by her parents to learn to ride without stabilisers, Sarah became rather keener on cycling in her university years, and was eventually persuaded to upgrade to proper road cycling by the prospect of a shiny red Italian bike, which she promptly destroyed by trapping a pair of knickers in the rear derailleur. Sarah writes about about cycling every weekend on road.cc.