Pedaling ideas

Alumna Alejandra Leal Vallejo is making urban environments safer for cyclists and pedestrians.

Alejandra Leal Vallejos job sometimes feels like an uphill pedal. 

“Having better pedestrian and cyclist environments is critical in places like Mexico City, where traffic and air pollution are huge problems,” says the 2012 MPP graduate.

Leal’s job is to change how people get from one place to the next in an urban environment – and to get them there in a safe, environmentally friendly way. She used to work at the Institute for Transportation & Development Policy, an international NGO that advises the city on pedestrian, cyclist and public transportation systems. Recently she started a new do tank, called Céntrico, which focuses on the implemenation of sustainable mobility projects.

Biking is relatively uncommon in Mexico City, and lane safety is just one issue she is trying to fix by getting the government and citizens to act. “I learned a lot about public management and how to deal with government and public participation,” at the Hertie School, says Leal.

What better place to find engaged citizens than Berlin, where Leal wrote her MPP thesis about the former Tempelhof airport - thanks to a local initiative now a giant public park right in the centre of the city. “The study of how participatory processes helped benefit the city, the study of the third sector—how NGOs work and how they can collaborate and contribute to government efforts, and how to involve the private sector – I think having this integrated approach to public policy really helped.”

And it seems to be making a difference in her current job too: “Mexico City has implemented some cycling infrastructure, so now more people travel by bike,” – even Leal herself. “I go to work, I go everywhere on my bike.”