Santa AnaCosta Rica

2018-09-18 00:00:00

Santa Ana en Cleta


  • Population size: 57,000

  • Population growth rate (%): 23.00

  • Surface area ( 6,142.00

  • Population density (people/ 895.90

  • GDP per capita (USD): 11,631.00



Santa Ana en Cleta is a project dedicated to the empowerment of the local population by teaching women how to ride a bike and how to use it as a means of transport. Its objective is to transform the mobility and road culture of the city's 57,000 inhabitants. The project also contributes towards an improved urban environment, well-being, health, the recovery of public spaces and the right to use the city in a safe, respectful and sustainable way.

The first stage of the project is focused on women, as women are the main agents of change in the communities, which allows the gradual inclusion of other groups of the population. This is the first step towards the development of the Active and Sustainable Mobility program for the city of Santa Ana. Various municipal agencies are involved, including the Mayor's Office, City Council, Women's Commission, Accessibility Commission as well as the Sports and Recreation Committee. Currently over 100 women participated directly in the project, and over 500 people have benefited indirectly through the program. The initial investment for the first stage of the project was 10,000 US dollars. By the end of this year the city expects to expand the number of direct beneficiaries to 500 people and indirect beneficiaries to 2,000 people.

The project Santa Ana en Cleta combines three specific areas: empowerment of women, sustainable mobility and the strengthening of communities which are all important components of UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).


The initiative is aimed towards UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The city is developing what very few local governments are attending to from the Transit Law which in its latest version encourages municipalities to take action to promote and support the use of bicycles, active and non-motorised mobility. A new law for mobility and cyclist safety, project 19548, will contribute towards local governments being able to invest more in projects and programs related to community’s active and sustainable mobility.



The Women’s Commission was established in 2016, and it soon got hold of the fact that the municipality hadn’t been carrying out projects directed towards women in the community and that the activities organized be the “Women’s Office” had been directed internally to the collaborators of the municipality only. 

In 2016, Gabriela Cob, adviser to the Women’s Commission, proposed to develop a project from within the Mayor’s and Vice-mayor’s office to improve mobility conditions in the county. The project focused on developing studies to identify the best strategies for designing a more inclusive mobility structure for pedestrians and cyclists as well as developing actions to reduce the use of private vehicles and improve road safety in general. This proposal included education, participative processes in parallel with technical studies to intervene, decongest and pacify specific parts of the city. 

Santa Ana is a city that lacks infrastructure for pedestrians and cyclists in most of its roads as well as exclusive lanes for public transport. Although there is a lot of investment in infrastructure that must be done, the city decided to start with a project focused on education and creation of tools for active mobility of women in the county. Women, who mostly (around 80%) are dedicated to the care economy, must make multiple trips within their communities to meet all the reproductive needs and care for their families, which allows them to become agents of change in their communities and families.

The Mayor's office allocated a small budget to develop a project that combines both needs, on the one hand an action aimed at positively impacting the lives of women in the county and on the other, transforming the mobility structure of the city.

First of all, it was decided to work with women, leaders of the community: at least 75 women who could become agents of change in the community who then can indirectly affect around 300 to 500 people. With the continuity of this project this year, the city wants to impact more than 2,000 people in the community, both directly and indirectly.

The objective of this project is to transform the mobility structure within the county of Santa Ana in a way that contributes to the reorganization of public spaces and to create conditions of mobility, accessibility and pacification of roads, in a healthy, convenient and safe way, minimizing costs for time lost due to traffic accidents, substantially reducing the carbon footprint, greater punctuality and independence from vehicular congestion.

Some specific tools are the creation of safe and efficient common routes for cyclists; routes to go to the schools, colleges and public institutions within the county and develop, together with the private sector, alternatives for their collaborators in their daily commute to and from work, educational centers and other strategic points within the county.

In this way the city wants to implement a permanent Sustainable and Active Mobility Program that allows us to advance in the paradigm shift of mobility, in such a way that the cities prioritize walking, cylcing and public transport.

The city also wants the population to re-appropriate the public space and participate in reviewing and contributing to improving it constantly.

Santa Ana developed an electronic survey which allowed it to know that there is a motivation and need for improved active mobility infrastructure, signage, bicycle parking, adequate facilities in public spaces. There is also a great willingness to participate in activities and spaces promoted by the municipality and consent to use a shared bicycle system for people who do not have bicycles.

The municipality is involving actors on a national level, as well as cooperators and the private sector to contribute in generating a more robust outreach program for the entire community by the year 2019. The partnership involves various levels of public-public, public-private and public-community alliances. The main allies at the public level are the Vice Ministry of Transport, who is supporting us in the accompaniment and development of an inclusive cycle infrastructure for next year. The other public actor that is important is the ICODER (Costa Rican Sports Institute) who is supporting with economic resources to follow up on the actions for this year.

On the part of the private sector, the city is still in the process of creating alliances. It has already strengthened some partnerships at specific and collaborative level, for example with the contribution of refreshments for the workshops given (Frutica and Jack´s).

For the establishment of parking for bicycles and a public bike system Santa Ana is starting a relationship with Kirebe and City Place, two real estate companies that are interested in collaborating with the initiative.

And with community organizations the municipality has strengthened alliances to train different sectors of the population for the following months of 2018, taking into account senior citizens and children as well as following up on and strengthening the work done with the women.

For technical training, collboration has been carried out with UNDP (United Nations Development Program) to sensitize all municipal staff and especially those who work on issues related to transport and mobility of the county so that they can have a more integrated approach that allows the inclusion of all the people using the roads. Also, the support received from them will allow the city to generate participatory design and involvement processes and training for the communities in these issues and to transmit the experience to other local governments so that they can learn from this experience and generate similar ones.

Santa Ana has also participated directly in the initiative from the UN of the SDGs to provide information on how the project has developed and what should be considered for analysis at a local level. As well as with the German Cooperation GIZ, sharing with other municipalities the experience to exchange and improve the experience of our local government.

The total budget for the implementation is 10,000 US dollars. 

  • 2,500 dollars: instructors for the workshops

  • 5,000: 28 bicycles

  • 1,000: 1 electric bicycle

  • 1,000: promotional T-shirts, hats, bottles

  • 500: workshop snacks

The initiaitve has also received donation in mobility consultancy for 5 months for the development of the initiative, establishment of institutional and political alliances for growth, sustainability, evaluation and monitoring of the project, development of the permanent active and sustainable mobility program in the canton and promotion in the media of the project and promotion at a general level both nationally and internationally.

Also on behalf of the Sports and Recreational Committee, an entity attached to the Municipality provided support with staff, hydration, awnings for the workshops and the closing ceremony.

On behalf of the ICODER (Costa Rican Sports Institute), they contributed snacks for the buffet and private companies. Jack's and Frutica also provided punctual support with refreshments for the workshops on learning to ride a bicycle and urban cycling.



This initiative is Revolutionary because the Municipality had never developed a project with these characteristics, oriented to active and sustainable mobility and the empowerment of women. In the country, a proposal such as this has not been developed that specifically focuses on educating and training women and at the same time providing them with tools for their active mobility, to transform their movements and change the general concept in which pedestrians and cyclists are marginalized on the roads. The educational process contemplates the change of paradigm of mobility and seeks to share the roads, to re-appropriate the public space by people, to prioritize non-motorized mobility and above all an initiative focused on the Sustainable Development Goals.

There are few references on the subject. Although the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) has pointed out the importance of allocating resources in areas of mobility and gender, there has not been a similar initiative in Latin America. According to a study developed by the IDB (2015) of 21 cities in the region, 10 had created agencies specialized in the development of cycling projects. However, the gender perspective is practically absent in the generation of these policies.

In addition to this, Costa Rica faces a harsh reality, traffic accidents are the first cause of death of people under 45 years of age, and is the most important health problem in developing countries. In Costa Rica, the cost of accidents is approximately 2-3% of GDP. Worldwide, traffic accidents represent epidemic proportions with an estimated 1,300,000 deaths per year and 50,000,000 life-changing injuries. In Costa Rica, there is an alarming rate of 7,000 and 8,000 accidents per month. In 2016, the number of traffic accidents requiring hospital care increased by 27% in the last two years. The accident rate for every 10,000 inhabitants went from 54 in 2013 to 68 in 2015 according to data from the Costa Rican Social Security.

Previous experience on the part of the creator of the initiative was working in the process of building a bike path donated to the city of Cartago, another municipality of the Greater Metropolitan Area of Costa Rica. From this experience the learning was mainly that the educational process and involvement of civil society and all sectors and actors of the city should learn and participate in the changes they want for their community.

This must be a priority, even more so than the infrastructure itself, in order for there to be a strong support for the next phases of the project as they become an integral part of the design process, so that the interventions, infrastructure and services that are offered to them are part of the community that receives them. Another important reason to focus mainly on women is that there is a significant absence of women in the use of bicycles and that is due to gender factors, which do not give them the tools for learning and for safe and efficient use of this vehicle for active mobility. It is important to focus this learning on the advantages due to the multiple trips that women must make throughout the day as well as recognizing that there are situations or experiences of violence, discrimination and lack of opportunities in the use and appropriation of public space in the cities where women have lived since girls.

Santa Ana en Cleta started as a project designed and implemented specifically for women in the community and with a limited quota mainly due to the number of bicycles (28) that could be acquired for the project. The project is currently evolving into an Active and Sustainable Mobility Program duly planned at the municipal level, this means that it will develop activities in a sustained manner during the year, as well as having an annual budget for development and greater depth in the impact of its objectives. For this reason, it went through a planning stage that allows it to be articulated as part of the municipality's permanent work policy and strategy towards its population.

One of the novel tools developed during the execution of the project is the application of an electronic survey, a tool that had not been applied before in the municipality. From a database of approximately 6,000 people the survey was answered by more than 300 people, this was undoubtedly a very positive participation and yielded extremely important and revealing results for the project, in addition to announcing that the municipality is focusing resources on this subject.

Another important level in the innovation of this project is the creation of multiple alliances of community, local, national and even international character.

One of the main obstacles is the lack of training and lack of knowledge on sustainable and active mobility and the need for its prioritization by municipal employees so they can affect the correct development of the initiative by having a conventional concept of giving priority to the motorized mobility. This problem, lack of technical capacity and awareness, is causing great economic losses in time, resources and health services to the communities and the societies. The way to counteract it is to develop technical training and sensitization to the issue, as well as a political prioritization to support this type of initiatives. The city is coordinating with UNDP on training that includes training on the importance of compliance with the SDGs as well as sustainable mobility and the need for the recovery of public spaces for our cities.

Another obstacle at a natural level is cultural in nature, therefore again the issue of education is a priority in Costa Rica. Currently 1,400,000 motor vehicles are circulating, with an average occupancy of 1.3 vehicle per person and with a growth rate of 55,000 units per year, which causes high levels of urban stress, noise, and environmental pollution. However, this gigantic vehicle fleet transports only 35% of the population; while the remaining 65% do so through obsolete bus systems, a dilapidated railway, narrow and battered sidewalks full of obstacles and a few bike paths and bicycle lanes.



The city of Santa Ana was ranked first nationwide in 2017 in the Human Development Index. This index takes into account the possibility of enjoying a long, healthy and creative life; the option of acquiring valuable knowledge, both individually and socially, through education, and the possibility of enjoying a decent standard of living, that is, having an adequate material well-being.

Santa Ana has a large young population (under-age and young adults), out of every 100 people, 27 are minors. It also scores among the first places in the index of childhood and adolescence well-being.

Projects such as Santa Ana in Cleta help maintain this leading position and improve the quality of life for people in the county and even people who, due to work or study, must travel or spend several hours a day in Santa Ana.

The city wants to raise the rate of use of the bicycle and non-motorized modes of travel to improve health and safety of communities, beautify urban environments, raise the efficiency of travel, change the behavior of people who drive motor vehicles to develop greater respect and solidarity among people so that they share the roads in a peaceful manner.

By the end of 2018, the initiative is expected to benefit approximately 2,000 people, and by 2019 it can directly benefit approximately 600 more and indirectly benefit 2,400 people more.

Though these changes were initiated at a local level, the city has already approached the Municipalities of Belén (area: 12.15 km², population: 21,085) and the Municipality of Mora (area:162.04 km², population: 23,004) so that we can strengthen initiatives with neighboring local governments and regionalize the project at the national level.

In Costa Rica, the National Institute of Statistics and Census (INEC) produces a series of municipal indicators that provide information for each county, on its social, demographic, educational, economic and housing situation, and other public institutions maintain information in their databases that can be filtered for the sector. For the next Census to be carried out, some metrics for the mobility issue will be introduced.

Other indicators can be derived from current studies, such as the IDB (2017), which advocates 1) promoting a compact urban development pattern; 2) prioritizing the implementation of networks of segregated bicycle lanes, complemented with shared-use streets and the adoption of measures aimed at lowering motorized vehicle speeds; 3) promoting intermodality, providing a greater variety of transportation options for women; and 4) including those who travel with women, particularly boys and girls, in bicycle promotion policies.

The coordinator of the project has also developed some indicators and metrics to probe, measure and analyze through the municipal databases with an electronic survey how the people of the county experience the mobility, main criteria and resources with which they mobilize at a general level. This data is collected and analyzed by the coordinator. A direct survey will be carried out this year with the Mayor's platform to evaluate any other necessary aspect to follow up and to incorporate into the Active and Sustainable Mobility Program actions that the city requires. likewise it will continue to be evaluated every six months, in an electronic, penetration, participation and performance of the Program.

Another level of indicators is used in satisfaction surveys for people attending workshops where they learn to ride bicycles and urban cycling workshops. These are evaluated and analyzed by the project coordinator and are also being evaluated by the Office of the Woman within the municipality. Satisfaction surveys will continue to be implemented with evaluation indicators on the workshops given, both quantitative and qualitative.

The political commitment of two councilors from the Municipal Council and the Mayor, who carried out the project and added to the expertise of the coordinator committed to the issue beyond the existing budget, was the perfect formula for the success of the project. To this was added a permanent work commission, which the Mayor's Office ordered, so that specific municipal tasks were developed and understood in a coordinated manner, in addition to the unconditional collaboration of the Sports and Recreation Committee.

A tool that had never been used in a project of this nature, the electronic survey on mobility, in the county revealed a positive, open and willing attitude to active mobility means such as cycling and walking. Just as a majority of people indicated their interest and willingness to participate in activities related to promoting and stimulating the use of these active means such as Sunday walks, street closures and public bicycle systems. Unfortunately, it also reflected another majority of people who do not consider public transport as a form of travel to their destination, most of the journeys are more than 15km a day, with around 50% using private vehicles to transport themselves. However, it should be noted that 27% consider the bicycle as an efficient vehicle to transport, which opens the possibilities for the incorporation of this medium in the county.

Another innovative measure is the projection of the number of people trained by the project and the amount of CO2 avoided. It will have on average these annual results:

  • If 500 people make 2 trips by bicycle per day (in an average of 7 km) for 5 days of the week, then

  • 500 pers * 2 (trips per day) * 5 (days per week) = 5,000 trips per week

  • 5,000 (trips) * 52 (weeks per year): 260,000 trips per year

  • 260,000 (trips) * 7 (average km per trip) = 1,820,000 km per year

  • 1,820,000 (km) / 100 * 17 (km per kg CO2) = 309,400 kg CO2 less in our county

The city now begins to have an image that identifies it as one of the few counties in Costa Rica that is developing specific initiatives of sustainable mobility and gender as well as identifying itself as one of the projects that is closest to what the SDGs propose. And more recently thanks to the recognition of Le Mond’s Smart Cities prize, the city of Santa Ana has reached international appraisal for the work done towards constantly improving the overall quality of life of its’ inhabitants.

This program has been a source of pride for the Municipal Council. The Mayor and the councilors who have supported it from the beginning have reinforced their support when the project received an international recognition as the Smart Cities Mobility Award of Le Monde, affirming their political decision to support and assign a budget to this type of innovative initiatives for the community. The fact the project had international recognition allows it to grow and become stronger for the benefit of the community.



What can be learnt from this project is how with a small budget there can develop a far-reaching big-impact project. This type of projects generates great changes in the lives of people. These initiatives must have the political support of people within the Municipal Council, the Municipal Mayor's Office and trained and committed people of civil society who support, give technical content and coordination to this type of initiatives.

It is also necessary to publicize the initiative to other actors, both national and international. It is important as well to involve the media to publicize and enrich the project with the participation of more people and institutions committed to improving the quality of life of cities.

The city intends to make known the experience to other municipalities and communities in order to implement similar programs. Currently the city has established conversations with mayors from neighboring municipalities, as well as with other public institutions such as the National Women's Institute (INAMU) and the Ministry of Public Education (MEP) to take the experience to the national level.



  • Goal 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all ages

  • Goal 4: Ensure inclusive and equitable education and promote life-long learning opportunities for all

  • Goal 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls

  • Goal 9: Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation

  • Goal 11: Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable

  • Target 2: Access to safe, affordable, accessible and sustainable transport systems for all

  • Target 7: Universal access to safe, inclusive and accessible green and public spaces, in particular of women, children older persons and persons with disabilities

  • Target 8: Support positive economic, social and environmental links between urban, peri-urban and rural areas

  • Goal 12: Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns

  • Goal 13: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts

  • Goal 17: Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development