Bicycle Facilities That Address Safety, Crime, and Economic Development: Perceptions from Morelia, Mexico

Key takeaways:

  • This is the first study to show that people in a developing nation (Mexico) perceive cycle tracks (protected, segregated bicycle lanes) to be the safest type of bicycle infrastructure. Cycle tracks could improve safety, reduce crime, and stimulate the local economy.
  •  However, cycle track designs cannot simply be copied and pasted from developed nations, as there are different perceptions of safety and quality/adequate bicycle infrastructure. 


  • In Morelia, the 19th largest metropolitan area in Mexico, policies have ignored cycling and walking as forms of transportation. The concept of the bicyclist as a road user only recently (January 2014) appeared in the Municipal Traffic Regulations.
  • Currently, 40% of road injuries and deaths in Morelia are pedestrians and cyclists, affecting mostly populations with lower incomes.
  • Mexico has discussed allowing people on bicycles to ride on the bus rapid transit lanes. However, people perceived joint bus and bike lanes as less safe because of bus drivers’ unwillingness to be courteous to and respectful of bicyclists.
  • Overall, people perceived cycle tracks (protected, segregated bicycle lanes) to be safest from crashes. Compared to men, women perceived cycle tracks to be safer from crashes.
  • Cycle tracks were associated with low crime and high economic development because there were more people around.
  • People felt that “invadable cycle tracks” were inadequate – Solid, large, and high barriers separating bicycle lanes from motorized traffic are necessary (as opposed to a line of paint or low bollards) to deter drivers.
  • The gender difference in perception of road safety for bicycling was significant: Women perceived significantly higher crash possibilities in roads with no bicycle facilities than men. Only 20% of commuting bicyclists in Mexico are women and the responses of female respondents in this study underscore the need for women to have a say in transportation decisions.
  • People consistently associated absent or low crime with greater economic development. People perceived retail to best thrive in areas with wide sidewalks, cycle tracks, greenery (i.e., trees, plants, shades, etc.), and people moving around. They also perceived these types of environments to be safer.
  • People felt that shared use paths, on or off the road, for pedestrians and cyclists were safer in terms of car/bike crashes, but the lack of lighting increases risks for crime.
  • Painted bike lanes besides parallel-parked cars produced split opinions. Some people felt that the paint was sufficient to ensure safety for bicyclists. Others insisted that no one respected a painted line and the illusion of safety could invite new bicyclists but unfairly put them in harm’s way.
  • People largely agreed that infrastructure that privileges cars does not promote economic development.
  • While Mexican politicians and media insist that increased police presence will curb crime, this study suggested that quality public spaces that encourage and enable pedestrians and bicyclists to safely move around are a better way to make people feel safe.
  • This study shows that when people of diverse socioeconomic backgrounds compare images of different built environments, they agree that high quality infrastructure for bicyclists would improve safety, security, and the local economy—whether they are bicyclists or not. This is significant because it reflects how people intuitively understand the value of the cycle track (for safety, crime reduction, and economic development) in a developing nation.



  • The researchers suggest that in developing nations, solid-barrier cycle tracks should be located in areas that would reflect existing uses and fulfill people’s needs, such as connecting a popular shared use path to a main street with restaurants and shops. Having a cycle track but dangerous routes to access it would deter actual usage.
  • The researchers further suggest that now that bicycling is rising on the policy agenda in Mexico, there must be laws and construction policies that foster cycling as a way of life, especially due to the demonstrated benefits of reducing crime and improving the economy.



  • In the first phase of this research, researchers asked six groups of individuals (43 people total) to complete a survey and indicate how different bicycle environments are perceived by populations in a developing nation in relation to lowering car/bike crashes, lowering crime, and increasing economic development.
  • In the second phase, researchers asked those same groups whether perceptions of bicycle environments that exist in developed nations would be understood and respected in the same way by residents in a developing nation.


Alevano-Aguerrebere, I., Ayvar-Campos, F.J., Farvid, M. and Lusk, A. (2017). Bicycle Facilities That Address Safety, Crime, and Economic Development: Perceptions from Morelia, Mexico. International Journal of Environmental and Public Health, 15(1).

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