The bicycle in Guazapa is a means of transportation that can be used at all hours, whether to go to the store, to the market, to work or to school or, of course, for recreation.
As bicycles are now becoming commonplace there, the hope is that a project like this can serve as an example for other parts of El Salvador.
The country has 14 departments with 262 municipalities, but so far only 12 municipalities have approved ordinances for the promotion of bicycles.
Salguero expects the efforts in Guazapa to continue. He hopes future generations will embrace transport that contributes to health and to the family economy.
Along with the Committee of Women Cyclists, the municipality has organised a mass cycling event to promote awareness and strengthen respect among motorists for those who travel by bicycle.
“By 2023 we hope to have a wider cycle path,” he said. “With this, the population helps to take care of our environment. We hope to enable bicycle parking in educational centres.”
Salguero is also hopeful that the ministry of transport will help organise mass cycling events throughout the country.
Indeed, there are signs that others are taking notice of Guazapa’s success. On 27 August 2020 the legislative assembly approved the Framework Law for the Use and Promotion of Bicycles as a Means of Transportation in El Salvador.
To date, the central government has already enabled bicycle lanes and has begun to limit the speed limits of automobiles on some roads to 30km/h, with the hope that this will be the maximum speed in the municipalities that have approved the municipal ordinances.
Rosa Isabel Trejo has just finished her second bicycle repair and assembly workshop. She has a 17-year-old daughter who is blind and has cerebral palsy.
Rosa found out about the workshops through a TV report. She now has her own bike shop, which provides her with a source of income while she looks after her daughter.
Jesús López, coordinator of the programme ‘Sin Bicicleta No Hay Planeta’, listed the programme’s three fundamental components: work with the municipality, work with educational centres, and implement activities to engage women.
The programme has managed to motivate women to break norms, earn much-needed income, and gain some financial independence, he says.
“Young people from educational centres are demanding the right to safe travel by bicycle, and people from the municipality are reacting. The municipality now promotes bicycle transport to go to work, shop or simply take leisurely bike rides,” he adds.
Through CESTA’s programmes, many women in Guazapa are reaping the benefits of cycling, but they are increasingly asking for still more action from the municipality, demanding safer spaces for bikes, including better, cyclist-friendly road signs.
“The National Civil Police has given us security to carry out our events. Radio Guazapa and the House of Culture have promoted these spaces,” says Pacas. “It’s safe for those who accompany us to ride a bicycle.”
Pacas also notes how much these programmes have helped her develop new skills, while serving to break the stereotype that bicycle-related jobs can only be done by men.
“What I didn’t like and what stressed me the most was putting the spokes on the bike, but disassembling, greasing and getting to know each piece became very pleasant and important.
“As a woman, it is not accepted to say that I stained myself with grease, or broke my nails, because we even dirty our faces. “We women have to face all these challenges and take them on with courage.”
Saúl Martínez is a Salvadoran writer and journalist.