Monday, 11 August 2014

Cyclovia, the South American tradition where cyclists take over the road every Sunday

One of the things I love most about South America is the Sunday Cyclovia.

Most major cities close a significant part of their road network to motorised traffic, opening up tens of kilometres, in some cases over 100 kilometres of prime city centre infrastructure to cyclists, skaters, runners and walkers. When I say major cities I am talking about Buenos Aires and Sao Paulo both with populations of over 10 million and I'm talking about major highways, dual carriageways, flyovers and other major arterial routes.  Sao Paulo takes in Avenue Paulista one of it's most iconic stretches of road through the CBD which buzzes with thousands of workers and shoppers during the week
Quito Cyclopaseo, La Mariscal

This is of course possible because most retail and offices are closed for the sabbath meaning the disruption is somewhat reduced.  Many of these cities already have significant cycleways in place in the first place, dedicated lanes separated from the traffic making cycling a genuine safe way of commuting that cyclists in many major cities could only dream of rather than a white line gently suggesting traffic give room to cyclists.
Quito cyclists make use of the roadway as well as dedicated lanes

Bogota, Colombia is credited with the inspiration for the Ciclovia, closing streets in the city since 1976. As one of the worlds most bike friendly cities it also has around 350k of dedicated purpose built bike lanes. It is estimated that 2 million people (about 30% of Bogota's population) use the weekly Ciclovia where 120k of city streets are dedicated to cyclists.

The Cyclopaseo in Quito coincided with our first day in the city and it was a great experience to walk from the La Mariscal area up to the historical old city via Parque El Ejido following the Cyclopaseo all the way.  The path here runs north south joining the new business district with the old town and is used by tens of thousands of people adding to the festive atmosphere as it winds it's way along the path.
Cyclopaseo  near Parquet El Ejido

Quito Parquet El Ejido

Many towns and cities in South America are still built around streets where individual trades are based, the mechanics street jewellery street are a couple of examples.  I was amused to see a collection of cycle shops in one area all doing a roaring trade with services and puncture repairs.
On road repairs

Seeing so many people out enjoying their city on two wheels is something to behold. Seeing serious cyclists mixing with BMX riders, families on a mix of racing, touring and kids bikes along with runners and roller skaters has been one of my favourite sights in South America and though Quito, pictured in this post is the only one I've seen in full flow the glimpses I've seen across the continent leave me in awe of their ability to make events like this happen every week.
Quito centro historico

 Incredible, forward thinking use of the city spaces with an impact on people's health and well being that must be enormous.

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