Spatial Inequalities in Lima

Photos and Text by Kristopher Schmidt

Today was a great way to spend a Sunday.  Rather than spending time with their host families we asked students to come over to our house for a short 9am lecture followed by a bike ride along the enormous “Avenida Arequipa”.  Avenida Arequipa is closed to traffic every Sunday, and the people of Lima take it over using every other form of transportation besides motorized vehicles – walking, jogging, rollerblading, longboarding, cycling, unicycling, you name it.

The reason that Arequipa is closed on Sunday is a political one.  Several pro-cycling groups in Lima have lobbied the government for years to equalize the space on the roads between all the various forms of transport that Lima residents use.  To say that Lima is not a pedestrian friendly city is an understatement.  Pedestrians are seemingly an afterthought in the minds of the average motorist.  Beyond that there are major problems in transportation.  The main bus routes are clogged with all forms of vehicles besides buses.  Trains, although new and fast, are always jammed packed with tired commuters.  The transportation issues really knock the wind out of you.  The average person in Lima commutes about 16kms to their workplace, and the average speed of the commute is 14km/hour (as a point of reference walking speed is about 5km/hr).   It is a bear of a problem.

Our lecturer today, Dr. Jose Peralta, is an avid cyclist and walked us though the history of transportation in Lima, touching on many important social justice issues related to transportation, opening up our eyes to the reality that there are social justice issues at every level of society here (and in fact everywhere).  Students were lively in their interactions and had many questions for Jose.  The intimate nature of having the lecture at our home made the discussion lively and interesting.

After the lecture Jose and one student biked to Parque Kennedy where we rented bikes.  He noted that his ‘commute’ to the bike rental shop was 9 minutes faster than our group kombi and bus ride.  Students hopped on bikes and were off for an hour and a half ride together.  We are enjoying Lima and having a chance to get some exercise and to see the city in a different way was appreciated by all.

Check out the photos below!  We are off to Cusco and the Sacred Valley for a week, leaving tomorrow at 5am.

Hasta Pronto!