Founded by Spanish colonists in the sixteenth century, Buenos Aires soon became a key port for the convergence of several trade routes. This was due to the importance of its location at the mouth of the Río de la Plata—the world’s widest river—which is fed by a massive basin that includes parts of five countries, making up about one-quarter of South America’s landmass. Centuries after its founding, the instability of the Napoleonic Wars reverberated around the world, which included a British invasion and occupation of the Buenos Aries. During this instability, the Argentine colony fought for independence from Spain, achieving sovereignty in 1816. In the late nineteenth century, unrestricted European immigration to Argentina, mostly from Italy, Germany and Spain, increased dramatically with the city’s population tripling between 1887 and 1915. The city urbanized rapidly in the twentieth century, often under the rule of various dictatorships. In the twenty-first century, Buenos Aires city proper has around three million people, with a further ten million living in the broader metropolitan area. It amounts to about a quarter of Argentina’s entire economic output and is the most visited city in South America.
Buenos Aires has a humid subtropical climate characterised by hot summers and mild winters. In January, the hottest month, the daily temperatures average 25.1°C, with days usually between 28-31°C and nights 16-21°C; with occasional heat waves that can push the temperature up above 35°C. July, on the other hand, has an average temperature of 10.9°C, with most days peaking at 12-20°C, and falling to 3-8°C at night. With a relative humidity that sits in around 70 per cent all year, making the city feels hotter and sticker in summer, and colder in winter than the air temperatures suggest. This humidity also means that the city is often shrouded in fogs during autumn and winter. Buenos Aires received 1,214mm of rain in 2009, and rain can be expected any time of year. Severe thunderstorms, sometimes dropping hail, are likely between September and December. The city’s climate, its location and management of waterways combine to make it highly prone to floods.
The City Climate Leadership Awards Ceremony and Conference is organized by C40 in partnership with the multinational conglomerate Siemens. Each year, they grant awards in ten different categories and provide global recognition for cities that are demonstrating climate action leadership, including cities as diverse as Barcelona and Bangkok, Lagos and London, Shanghai and Stockholm. In 2013, Buenos Aires won the ‘Citizen’s Choice Award‘ for its Plan for Sustainable Mobility.
This plan came in response to a combination of traffic congestion, air pollution and a desire to increase urban mobility in a public way, including non-motorized transit solutions. The response involves an integrated effort and a number of simultaneous initiatives, including: the creation of a Bus Rapid Transit system, an expansion of the metro system, a public bike-sharing programme, extension of bike paths and an expansion of pedestrian zones.
In 2011, a newspaper reported on a study conducted by the Buenos Aires city government and the University of Buenos Aires, which found that the use of bicycles had more than doubled in the past year. They cite the determining factor as being the city’s government’s pro-cycling scheme, ‘Mejor en Bici’ (Better by Bike). The scheme involved free bicycle hire from automated city stations and the construction of an extended network of cycle paths. Called ‘EcoBici’ by the Buenos Aires City, the scheme attracted over 30,000 people to register in the first year and now almost 100,000 have subscribed. As of 2013 the city had laid over 110km of protected bicycle lanes and is planning to lay another 100km. They claim to be increasingly transforming the inner city to give priority to pedestrians and cyclists at the expense of vehicles. In 2013 there was 31 stations free bike stations, 80,000 users making 5,000 daily trips, parking in 2,816 street bike spaces. All this has boosted bike usage in the city from 0.4 per cent in 2007 to 2.5 percent in 2015.