Santa Ana en Cleta

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Santa Ana

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Main actors

City Government, Private Sector

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Project area

Whole City/Administrative Region

Icons use case study duration


Ongoing since 2016/01

Transforming mobility culture by empowering women as change agents.

Santa Ana en Cleta is a project dedicated to transforming the mobility and road culture of the city’s 57,000 citizens by promoting gender equality and sustainable mobility. The first stage of the project is focused on empowering women by teaching them how to ride a bike and to use it as a means of transport. The Santa Ana en Cleta initiative will help increase bicycle usage, improve health and safety of communities and beautify urban environments. The initiative also aims to change the behaviour of people who drive motor vehicles by encouraging greater respect and solidarity among people so that they share the roads in a peaceful manner.

Sustainable Development Goals

Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages
Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
Reduce inequality within and among countries
Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable

Guangzhou Award

This project was shortlisted for the 'Guangzhou Award' in 2018.

Santa Ana, Costa Rica

Size and population development
Population size: 57,000 ; Population growth rate (%): 23.00

Main functions
Samta Ana is a city in the Central District of Santa Ana Canton, San Jose Province in Costa Rica.

Main industries / business
Santa Ana’s economy has been traditionally dependent on agriculture but more recently has diversified to include sectors such as finance, pharmaceuticals and eco-tourism.

Sources for city budget
Local government revenues come primarily from grants from central government funds, municipal rates and municipal investments.

Administrative structure
Costa Rica is composed of seven provinces, which in turn are divided into 81 cantons, each of which is directed by a mayor. Mayors are chosen democratically every four years by each canton. There are no provincial legislatures. The cantons are further divided into 473 districts. The city of Santa Ana acts as seat to the municipal government of the Satna Ana Canton. Since the Central District is mostly comprised by the city of Santa Ana, they are often treated interchangeably.

Santa Ana is a city that lacks infrastructure for pedestrians and cyclists. Although substantial investment in infrastructure is required to address this, the city administration chose to start with a small project focused on mobility for women.

Approximately 80% of women in Santa Ana are dedicated to the care economy, they make multiple daily trips within their communities to meet the needs of their families. 

In 2016 the Women’s Commission proposed to develop a project to improve mobility conditions and subsequently received municipal support from the Mayor’s and Vice Mayor’s office.

The main objectives for the project are:

  1. empowerment of women
  2. strengthening communities
  3. sustainable mobility
  4. reducing the city’s carbon footprint

The City of Santa Ana wants to implement a permanent Sustainable and Active Mobility Program that allows a paradigm shift in mobility, such a way that the cities prioritize walking, cycling and public transport.

The first phase of the Santa Ana en Cleta project focused on ways to encourage women, particularly in vulnerable communities, to use a bicycle as a means of personal and economic development. 

An initial day of practical workshops was organized and addressed topics such as: techniques for learning the use of the bicycle, essential information for safe travel, the choice of device, safety accessories, relevant legislation and driving techniques in the city.

A Specific tool has been created to identify safe and efficient common routes for cyclists; routes to go to schools, colleges and public institutions. Together with the private sector, a tool has been developed to assist workers in finding alternatives for their daily commute to and from work, and other strategic points within the city.

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

An electronic survey has been conducted which showed there is community need for an improved active mobility infrastructure (including a shared bicycle system), signage, bicycle parking and updated facilities in public spaces. The survey also showed that citizens are willing to participate in activities and spaces promoted by the municipality.

The municipality is involving actors on a national level, as well as collaborating with the private sector to generate a more robust outreach program for the entire community in 2019. The partnership involves various levels of public-public, public-private and public-community alliances. The key government stakeholder is the Vice Ministry of Transport, and the key public actor is ICODER (Costa Rican Sports Institute) who is providing supporting economic resources.

The City administration is still in the process of creating partnerships with the private sector.

For the establishment of a public bike system, the City are in discussions with two real estate companies, Kirebe and City Place, who have expressed interested in collaborating with the initiative.

The city is continuing to work with community organisations and moving forward will focus on senior citizens and children as well as continuing working with women.

Technical training has been carried out with UNDP (United Nations Development Program) to train all municipal staff, especially those who work on issues related to transport and mobility.

The Lead agency for the project is the Santa Ana Municipality. The initial investment for the first stage of the project was USD10,000. 

  • 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 catering

The project also received sponsorship form a private sector consultancy firm for the development of the initiative, establishment of institutional and political alliances for growth, sustainability, evaluation and monitoring of the project, and media promotion.

The Sports and Recreational Committee, an entity attached to the Municipality provided support with staff, hydration, banners for the workshops and the closing ceremony.

The ICODER (Costa Rican Sports Institute) provided funding for workshop and event catering while Jack's and Frutica provided refreshments for the workshops on learning to ride a bicycle and urban cycling.

The city of Santa Ana is now identified as one of the few cities in Costa Rica that is developing specific initiatives for sustainable mobility and gender equality in line with the SDGs. More recently due to the recognition of Le Mond’s Smart Cities prize and The Guangzhou Award, the city has received international attention for the programs and policies being implemented to improve the lives of citizens.

At the end of 2018, the initiative has been of benefit to approximately 2,000 people, and by early 2019 it will directly benefit approximately 600 more and indirectly benefit 2,400 people.

One of the main challenges is the lack of knowledge and training on sustainable and active mobility and the need for its prioritization by the municipal administration. The city is presently coordinating with UNDP on training that includes 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 challenge is at a national level. In Costa Rica there are 1,400,000 motor vehicles circulating on the roads, with an average occupancy of 1.3 persons per vehicle and a growth rate of 55,000 vehicles per year. This contributes to high levels of urban stress, noise, and environmental pollution. Additionally, this gigantic vehicle fleet transports only 35% of the population; while the remaining 65% travel on obsolete bus systems, a dilapidated railway, narrow and battered sidewalks full of obstacles and a few bike paths and bicycle lanes.

Lessons learned include, how with a small budget a project can have far-reaching and big-impacts and generate change in the lives of citizens. These initiatives must have the political support of the Municipal Council, the Mayor's Office and trained and committed people of civil society who provide both financial and in-kind support.

It is also necessary to publicize the initiative to other actors, both national and international and to involve the media to attract more citizen participation.

The City of Santa Ana intends to share the experience with other municipalities and communities in order for them to implement similar programs. Currently city administrators are participating in conversations with mayors from the neighbouring municipalities of Belén (area: 12.15 km², population: 21,085) and Mora (area:162.04 km², population: 23,004), as well as other public institutions such as the National Women's Institute (INAMU) and the Ministry of Public Education (MEP).

Santa Ana has also participated directly in a UN initiative on the SDGs and the German Co-operation GIZ to provide information on how the project has developed and what should be considered for analysis at a local level.

Santa Ana en Cleta, Guangzhou Award for Urban Innovation:

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Guangzhou Award
Guangzhou, China

Guangzhou Award

Institution | Urban Award

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