Every Sunday and every holiday, everyone —or, at least, almost everyone — takes ownership of long sections of several major streets and highways in Colombia’s capital city. It’s known as the Ciclovía, or Bicycle Way.
It’s no wonder, too, then, that major news outlets are not shy about calling Bogotá the best place for cycling in Latin America.
Take this story from the Guardian, for example.The Ciclovía apparently started in 1974, with almost 9 miles. Today the amalgamation of lane closures stretches more than 75 miles.
I ride at least 10 miles every Sunday and/or holiday. I ride on other days too, at least twice during the week.
That’s nothing unusual. There are more than 611,000 bicycle trips per day among the nearly 250 miles of bike lanes in the city, according to a study by the Inter-American Development Bank, the Washington lending firm that aims to improve infrastructure, among many other things, in Latin America and the Caribbean.
My favorite route is Carrera 11. I can access it easily from where I live and then take it to or near all the best destinations in the city, such as the Chapinero Alto and the Zona T.
In or near those areas are some of my favorite cafes and restaurants: Arigato, Da Quei Matti, Julia, La Cremería, and the food truck park next to Plaza Atlantis.
But I digress. Let’s get back to the bicycles, shall we?
Here’s why having such an extensive bicycle system is great in Bogotá:
I’ve already alluded to the fact that the city has great restaurants. If you’re looking for nightlife, everything from nightclubs to theater, Bogotá has those too. But unlike so many other cities, it provides a great combination of exercise and recreation with its cycling options.
I need the cycling. My right knee is a wreck from so many years of Judo as a kid. I can’t go running, because it aches afterward, bad.
That leaves me with swimming or cycling, and I prefer beaches to pools so that narrows it down even further.
For new arrivals to the city looking for bicycles, a great place to find them for a good price is Mercado Libre. I paid only 200,000 pesos ($79.08 as of the week of this post) for mine. Throw in another 20,000 pesos ($7.91) for delivery, then another 50,000 pesos ($19.77) for a quick tuneup following the purchase and it’s a great deal.
It’s even better when you factor that having all these bike lanes save me money on transportation.
The last two weeks I went to the Cuban Embassy, to prepare for my trip to the communist island nation next month. Both times, I followed Carrera 11 until Calle 92, then pushed my bike the rest of the way, just another two blocks, up the sidewalk of Calle 92 until I arrived at the embassy.
That saved me almost 50,000 pesos in taxi fares, had I taken taxis round-trip on the two days. On the Transmilenio, I was looking at saving only 8,000 pesos, not much I’ll admit.
But trips on the Transmilenio would have required me to do at least a half dozen blocks of walking. When I factored that in, I thought, “Why don’t I just ride my bike and get even more exercise, while pocketing enough cash for a nice set meal somewhere?”
If I were not already here, if I were looking to retire, or to study Spanish abroad, or to work overseas, this cycling amenity would be something that would sway me heavily toward Bogotá.
Throw in the restaurants, the cultural attractions, the diversity, the business and investment opportunities, and wow, you have a city that really has it all.