The Mexico City Ministry of Transportation (Semovi) had a record-setting attendance at its “bikeschool” in July with 1,278 participants, motorists who had been sanctioned for violating traffic laws.
The bicycle education program is part of the city’s system of consequences for drivers who break the rules of the road. It seeks to raise awareness of the needs of cyclists and pedestrians, and provide information regarding the responsibilities of drivers.
Vehicles begin with 10 points (associated with the license plate number) which they can lose by breaking the speed limit, driving the wrong way down one-way streets, venturing into areas designated for bicyclists and motorcycles, or using cellphones while driving, among other infractions. A vehicle owner who loses five points gets two warnings then must take online safety courses.
If they continue to lose points, the driver then has to attend the one-hour “bikeschool” course. There, students learn about transit rules and put themselves in the place of cyclists, learning about the risks of the road, bicycle hand signals, and more.
“They explain to us the importance of driving and how to coexist with cyclists. They really do teach us. You always have to try to respect everyone … It’s time to be more careful with the speed limit and be more observant of the car’s surroundings,” Leonardo Rivera said of his experience in the class.
The class seems to have the desired effect: the course has reduced repeat law-breaking by 24%, according to course director Fernanda Rivera.
“The ‘bikeschool’ seeks to create sensitivity, above all in the people who have committed an infraction. We teach them about the rights that cyclists have but most importantly, about the way they must drive to guarantee our safety,” she said.
However, the school hasn’t yet managed to change a dangerous trend in transit deaths. According to Semovi, there was an 80% increase in the number of cyclists killed on the road in 2020. And in the first trimester of this year, deaths have doubled.
One “bikeschool” participant suggest that drivers should take the class before they commit an infraction, rather than after.
“It’s very useful,” Ricardo Orozco said. “I think the majority of drivers should take it.”