Bike Ridin’ in Santiago, Chile

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Peddling yourself around and saving a few bucks while avoiding renting cars or taking the subway is a very doable proposition here. The bike advocacy group, Bicicultura, even has a handy bike route guide on their website. Type in your start point in the “desde dónde” box and where you wanna go in the other one, obvio, “hasta dónde”. It will give you a number of options starting with the best one first. It’s clearly marked there on the city map. The routes may not always seem direct, but they usually seek out the nearest “ciclovías” [bike paths] and avoid streets with too much bus traffic. Don’t mess with the bus drivers.

Overall, biking here may be different depending on what city you’re from. Biking on the sidewalk is frequently okay or even necessary. The local government even contemplated a law last year making it illegal to ride on the streets! That’s hilarious, and there was such a big blow-back that it went nowhere. Clearly, if you are on the sidewalk you must go slowly and give preference to pedestrians. Once you get to know your neighborhoods and what traffic is like at any given time of day, you can find the excellent one-ways, the lovely tree-lined side streets and the main thoroughfares that give you a wide berth.

General notes:

1] Sidewalk biking okay; be careful and respectful.

2] Take bike paths whenever available. Be aware they are likely to be also occupied by parked cars, people conversing or even a bike rider taking a break and talking on the phone. They randomly end sometimes, or zigzag all willy nilly (Alameda is the funniest bike path ever!)

3] More businesses are realizing that it’s a good idea to have a bike rack out front or in the parking lot – part of this is due to the advocacy of Bicicultura and others. Lock your bike up REALLY well, and never leave it outside at night. I’m on my fourth bike in as many years. C’est la vie. Kryptonite locks are for sale in a few places, including usually the park in Barrio Brasil on Sundays.

4] The first Tuesday of the month is a massive city ride. I always forget that I plan to join them until I see them flying past my apartment. I just dug up the page. Riders meet at Plaza Italia at 8:00 PM

5] If you want to try, but are afraid, get out on a Sunday. There are so few cars around that the streets are ours!

6] One of the best ways to see a city is, hands down, on two wheels. If you end up somewhere shady, you can get out of there fast. If you happen upon a lovely fountain or plaza, you can take a break. And of course, you feel like part of the city in a way that staring at it through a window just does not provide.

7] Feeling daring? Climb up Cerro San Cristobal to the zoo, the public pool or the Japanese water garden and FLY your ass back down to the bottom. Great exercise and extremely fun.

Let me know if you have any questions. I’m always happy to help.

UPDATE: Friday March 8th there is a big bike ride for International Women’s Day. Meeting up at 8PM! [I’ll be in Peru, sad face, wait no, happy face.]

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