I’ve wanted to write about the happy existence I lead biking around Santiago for some time. Truth be told, I do ride around the city most of the time. Another truth is that only sometimes is it happy. The newest legal development would make it even less happy.
While cycling, I have been hit by a truck (owie + months of physical therapy, and my shoulder is still off). I have also hit a pedestrian (she said, “oh! my lunch”, and I ended up at the orthopedist for back pain). I have also cycled probably thousands of miles up and around the city and had a lot of interactions with people, many of them negative (shouting, honking, irresponsible driving). But recently things have escalated. As the proliferation of ciclovías (bike paths) continues, and motorists and pedestrians learn more about them, more and more, people have taken to shouting “ciclovía” at me.
Yes, ciclovía. First of all, while there are some bike paths around the city, not all bike paths are created alike. There are many that have trees in the middle of them (woe is he who misses that side-jag, Simón Bolívar), mystery (invisible) ramps (Alameda), hops from one side of the street to the other (Brasil, Simón Bolívar), bumps (Santa Isabel), potholes (Curicó), sewer grates (Costanera), dangerous dividers hemming you in (Santa Isabel), and places where businesses have taken out the dividers and built a ramp, essentially making your ciclovía into a free right hand turn into their locale (Santa Isabel). Some of the paths are wide, and are for two-way traffic, and many of them are narrow, and people still use them two-way. One (Rosas) is so narrow that if you had wider-than-normal handlebars, you’d be hard pressed to use it. One near my house (Alameda) goes through what I consider to be a dangerous tunnel/cage with a sharp blind 90-degree turn and no mirror to see if someone is coming.
Also, while these marvelous ciclovías are sprouting up, beside and in between (in the case of the trees), they are not everywhere. Therefore, shouting the word “ciclovía” at me serves little effect. Just the other day, I was heading down Manuel Rodriguez (the service road for norte-sur, or Panamerican highway), and a taxi driver tooled up beside me and said, blablabla (insert actual words here) ciclovía. And so I dutifully caught up to him at the next light, and said in my very sweetest tone, “Sir, I would love to use the bike path. But as you can see, there is no bike path here, and in order to get to one, I either have to fly or bike there. I have chosen to bike there. I hope that doesn’t upset you too much.” Except all he heard was “Sir, I would love to use” blablabla because he rolled up his window and pumped up the tunes.
I object to the insistence that cyclists should use the bike paths for a variety of reasons. In many cases, they are not safe or convenient. There is one (Pocuro) where every time you get to an intersection there is this traffic-calming technique that involves a turn and a ramp. It makes it very likely for me to hit a pedestrian (they use the path, too), and causes me to lose speed. More on hitting pedestrians in a minute. There are others, like the cage one, where I have judged the path to not be safe. Equally, going down the bike path down the center of the Alameda in general after dark is not a good idea. There have been assaults, accidents, etc. Trust me to be a good cyclist. I use a helmet and reflectors, don’t dart into traffic, and signal (and thank people) before I change lanes. As an aside, I also don’t need you to honk when passing. I can hear you clearly, as I (unlike you) am outside.
The latest development in the cyclist-motorist free-for-all involves a proposed law requiring cyclists to ride on the sidewalk in the case that there is no bikepath (see: hitting pedestrians). The point for many of us to riding a bike is to get from one place to another quickly and safely. Riding up and down sidewalk curbs (as there are no ramps in many places) is idiocy. Expecting us to ride alongside people who walk so densely in some areas (Downtown, Providencia) that it’s difficult to even walk faster than the crowd, never mind bike between them, is sheer ignorance. It’s easy to assume that this law was proposed by someone living and working in a place where there is low population density, and few people walk. But for most Santiaguinos, who will certainly set foot on the corridor from Las Rejas to Las Condes on a daily basis, riding on the sidewalk would be torturously slow, and dangerous to pedestrians and cyclists alike, to say nothing of the dogs. Also, because cyclists advance more quickly than pedestrians in crosswalks, they’d be more likely to get hit by turning vehicles.
I have held off on saying anything about this law (until goaded to do so by a friend) because I simply cannot believe that anything so irresponsible, inconvenient and dangerous would be perpetrated on Santiaguinos, among them people who make their living delivering electricity bills and gas bills, to say nothing of the mailmen and gasfiters (plumbers) who get around by bike. And what about the guys who deliver gas and move fruit and vegetables and other items in their triciclos (cargo bikes), should they ride on the sidewalk, too?
I do not believe that this law will be passed. I think it’s another case of disconnected lawmakers acting on an inkling of an idea that is not well thought-out. But if this law goes, oh, if it goes, I will call for a giant taking to the sidewalks of street after street, a critical mass so vast and so cumbersome that it will cripple the city. I expect thousands will join in. I’ve got an extra bike if you want to play.
Maybe on that day the pedestrians can take over the street. And the motorists can drive down into the metro. And the ten senators behind the proposed law? Well they can just take the ciclovías. Shouting optional.
I agree. I can’t imagine this will be passed. Political suicide. Going up against cyclists who don’t like riding on sidewalks and pedestrians who don’t like bikers.
Thanks for sharing.
Rodolfo told me about this the other day and basically made all the points that you have about safety and practicality. It’s just such a poorly thought-out law. Obviously the best solution would be to have more/better ciclovias, but the other alternative would be to educate drivers a little about how bikes are vehicles too and how they need to share the road with them.
I just feel (perhaps mistakenly so), that I’m in charge of my own safety. If I feel something isn’t safe for me to do, you can yell at me all you want, but I’m not going to do it. I’m glad Rodolfo feels the same! And good to see you over here, Emily!
Si se aprueba nadie le dará bola, menos aun cuando la iniciativa es por parte de 10 momias. Relax nomás, nadie ‘pescará’.
sip, sé que no se va a aprobar. Pero me encantó la idea de todos tomando las veredas para ver que complicado realmente sería que lo hicieran. Pucha, ahora no vamos a tener nada que funar. Gracias por comentar, no me acuerdo haberte visto acá antes! Bienvenid@!
Things to do today: Goad Eileen: Check
Great post. I also can’t imagine this goes through. But it is a topic that has gotten a whole lot of attention..everyday there is letter to the editor in El Mercurio..so I hope all this discussion and stupidity laced law can get some sort of progress going. I like also your points on the ciclovias that exist today. Many of them also just lead you to a really complicated, busy intersection and it ends (Antonio Varas). It still is a great way to get around this city…I’ll keep riding no matter what!
The other thing we need here is a single track MTB park in rolling hills (not just going straight up the mountains).
I believe you planted the goading seed yesterday. And I agree with the mtb trails, though I don’t do much (any) mountainbiking here. I would also very much like a hiking trail that the does the same, though the one to El Manzano had much more zig-zagging than normal, which was nice.
I hadn’t thought about the ciclovías that dead end into deadly traffic. Almost as much fun as going around perez zujovich (sp?). Maybe a sinkhole will open in one, soon. That would complete the picture!
Everything you say about the ciclovias is true – they are not necessarily a cruisey ride. Sometimes I think I am going to wear my bell out with the constant work out it gets warning pedestrians and cars to my presence, regardless of whether I’m using the ciclovia, road or footpath!
I can’t imagine this law going through as it is too ridiculous. [although
I would love to see/ride in your “taking over of the footpaths” protest ride]
If they want to encourage the building of ciclovias then they should just get on with it instead of this nonesense. And while they’re at it some extensive road user education campaigns to make riding safer would be money well spent.
I use the footpath sometimes, like when its the safest place to be riding. And I have started to look forward to the calling out of ‘ciclovia’ as it means I can agree with them and tell ’em what a good idea it would be if there was one along this street and maybe they should write a letter or start a campaign to get it there!
The only solution I see is more ciclovías. I hate bikes as a pedestrian and I hate them even more as a driver, as they tend to disregard their own safety and I go out of my way not to hit them. I once had an argument with a friend, because he thought bikes should be treated as vehicles and I thought they hadn’t earned that right yet. They need to educate themselves on how to use the road first, like you said: signaling, wearing reflectors (the amount of people who don’t wear them really surprises me. Are they suicidal? And same goes for pedestrians who just cross the street wherever they like during the night), actually stopping at red lights or stop signs and using pedestrian crossings with more care (or even better: trying to avoid them). But since we live in a country were everyone on the street (drivers, bikers, pedestrians) think they are completely alone and able to bend the laws of physics, I think this is totally wishful thinking on my part.
But they have to be ciclovias worth a damn. There are so many that are so narrow, dangerous, twisty, abrupt, impractical, difficult and dangerous. It’s not enough for there to be bike paths They have to be well-desigend and actually go where cyclists need/want to go. Or that last for more than ten blocks (República, I’m looking at you”). If I drove, I’d stay as far away from cyclists as possible as well, though I do try to be a good cyclist and use lights, helmet, reflectors, etc.
No es pa´ preocuparse taaaaaanto. Tu crees que alguien va respetar la ley en caso de ser aprobada?
Sería lo mas entrete. Todos los ciclistas a las veredas? Te imaginai? Eso sí sería para sacarle una foto. (pd, usar correo de verdad te sirve para que tus comentarios aparecen mas rápido acá).
When I first got my bike I was thrilled because I had seen so many ciclovias around the city, but once I started actually using them I realized how dangerous most of them are. Santa Isabel makes me pray for my life that I don’t get plowed by a micro or a truck that is coming up behind me IN the ciclovia. And the glass all over that road doesn’t soothe my fear of being annihilated like the bottles.
When I crashed about a month ago it was because I had to go out onto the street because people were blocking my ciclovia on Carmen – the ciclovia that is part of the sidewalk that is blocked by pedestrians, cars, trees and well…anything you can possibly think of.
Okay I’m off to bike through el centro at rush hour – wish me luck!
Yes, there are alot of places that the ciclovías are not the right place to be! Stay safe!
no fue aprobada, congrats!
nunca dudaba de que fue una locura, mal pensada e imposible de que se hiciera ley. Menos mal que tenía razón! Gracias por comentar, Pia!