Mexico City by bike.

Surely you can’t cycle through Mexico City.

It’s a chaotic, crazy, polluted, frantic city of about 20 million people and almost as many cars. It’s so busy people push each other into train carriages on the metro, and the central business district drowns in traffic jams full of frustrated motorists on a daily basis.

The peak hour rush is more of a peak hour grind.

And yet, it is possible to cycle.

Sunday Ciclovia, or Cycleway, opens 55 kilometres of the central business district to cyclists, pedestrians, and rollerbladers with strollers from 8am – 2pm, and closes the streets to motor vehicles. People take over the famous Paseo de la Reforma and revel in the festival atmosphere of car-free streets. And, being Mexico, the bike ride feels like a party.

On the last Sunday of each month, the Ciclovía expands into a Ciclotón (longer route), stretching up to 97 kilometers across Mexico City and encompassing several highways.

During Ciclovia, hundreds of Chilangos (residents of Mexico City) and visitors cycle freely and happily through a portion of the CBD and soak up the renowned colonial architecture and aspects of the city that are rendered invisible by the daily grind.

But I don’t have a bike.

That’s ok. Bikes can be hired from various locations within the city, for a few pesos. Sturdy, comfortable bikes are available to all, as are helmets, and they offer people the opportunity to navigate the city in a unique manner.

Why?

Environmental activists and concerned Chilangos lobbied authorities for years to remove gas-guzzling motor vehicles from the city streets and reserve this space for cyclists and pedestrians. They did so to promote alternative transport and to encourage locals to consider moving around the city without a car. They also did it to allow cyclists to ride in peace and safety, even if only once a week, and to prove that cities can be returned to the people.

Plus, they wanted another excuse to smile, socialise and enjoy life, because this is Mexico.

Ciclovia began as “Muévete en bici” (Move by Bike) in 2007. It grew to become the fifth largest car-free day in Latin America, with an estimated 4.2 million total users. It has also reportedly altered the culture of the city, and the Non-Motorized Mobility Strategy Office has in turn created the ECOBICI bike-share program and a dedicated bike lane network.

Is it necessary?

Yes, Mexico City is an extremely polluted city, due largely to the number of motor vehicles using its roads every day. Such is the level of air pollution in the mega city that its forested park ‘Bosque de Chapultepec’ is known as los pulmones del DF, or the lungs of the capital.

Ciclovia happens every Sunday in Mexico City and is open to anyone on a bike, roller blades, skateboard, scooter or even their dos patas or two feet. It is a refreshing and fun way in which to explore a fascinating and bustling destination and it helps, ever so slightly, to breathe fresh air into the city.

If it can be done in Mexico City, it can be done in almost any city – even yours.

I Hate Cyclists.

One fine day in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney, Australia.

Bill: G’day

Bob: G’day, sorry I’m late, big night last night.

Bill: No worries. Are we gonna make it on time?

Bob: Yeah, we should. That light’s still green, hold on.

Bill: Nah, that’s definitely red.

Bob: Oy, watch where you’re going you clown, get off the road!!! Bloody cyclists. I hate cyclists.

Bill: Hate, that’s a strong word.

Bob: Yeah, I bloody hate cyclists.

Bill: Hate? – you hate terrorists.

Bob: Yeah, but at least terrorists kill their own…

Bill: Hate? – you hate drug dealers.

Bob: Well, not necessarily, especially after last night, man, what a buzz.

Bill: Hate? – you hate murderers

Bob: Yeah, but I could murder a kebab right now.

Bill: Why do you hate cyclists?

Bob: They ride on the road

Bill: Isn’t that because they’re not allowed to ride on the footpath?

Bob: Yeah, but they should just ride on the cycle paths.

Bill: True, but sometimes there are no cycle paths, or the cycle paths just stop.

Bob: So, that’s not my fault, I didn’t build the cycle paths. Oh, wait, there’s a bottle-o, I forgot to bring something, mind if I pull over?

Bill: No, go for it.

Bob: Won’t be a sec.

Bill: Hang on, did you just park over a cycle lane?

Bob: Yeah, so what – they can just ride around me.

Bill: What, onto the road?

Bob: Yeah…

Bob: Nice drop this.

Bill: Bob, I still don’t get it, why do you say you HATE cyclists?

Bob: Mate, they’re grown men…in LYCRA.

Bill: I suppose you wear jeans or footy shorts when you go to the beach.

Bob: Piss off!!!

Bill: But HATE, it’s such a strong word, I mean, you hate politicians, that’s fair enough.

Bob: You bet, especially those bloody Greenies, building cycle paths everywhere, waste of taxpayers’ money.

Bill: What about politicians in lycra?

Bob: The worst

Bill: I could understand if you hate paedophiles.

Bob: Of course I do, they’re scum…Then again, how do you know he did it? I mean, do you still think he’s guilty?

Bill: What?

Bob: Well, an ex-PM vouched for him, and I was listening to the radio the other day and that guy, what’s his name, he reckons he was never guilty.

Bill: But I still don’t understand why you HATE cyclists.

Bob: They cause traffic jams.

Bill: Surely cars cause traffic jams, plus, if more people cycled, there’d be less traffic. Anyway, do you think we’ll make it on time

Bob: Yeah, no worries, we’ll cut through Centennial Park.

“Bill, Bob, Hi, so glad you could make it.”

Bob: Hi, sorry we’re late, traffic was murder.

“No worries – you’re just in time. Come and join us, we’re all going for a ride.”

First published in The Beast magazine, February 2021.

Image: Roman Koester