How Cycling Is Challenging Santiago’s Social Barriers

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Cycling is now shedding its ‘loser’ image in the Chilean capital, and bikes are enjoying a renaissance. This movement around the city has, in part, brought greater social mobility, and is bridging long-term class segregation

Gideon Long

Back in 1980, a Chilean bank ran a TV advert in which a man cycles across Santiago to meet his sweetheart. As he wobbles through the traffic, a bouquet of flowers in his hand, motorists, builders and school kids ridicule him. “Cómprate un auto, perico!” they shout – “Get yourself a car, mate!”

The hapless cyclist reaches his lover’s house and hands her the bouquet. She gazes adoringly into his eyes. But then she sees his bike. “Get yourself a car, mate!” she scolds him. As the ad ends, she hauls him off to the bank to take out a loan.

The advert was a big hit in Chile and its message was clear: bikes are for losers. If you wanna get a girl, get a car.