I’ve briefly mentioned the Ciclovia before. but when asked I’ve provided very vague answers. That’s a thing of the past, since today we’ll be talking about the Ciclovia, one of the most interesting and fun things Bogotá has to offer.
I was planning on writing a long description of exactly what it is and what it’s like, but I think it’ll be much more fun to just show you. So go ahead and join me as we bike through the Ciclovia!
We start our journey heading north on the Avenida Boyacá. This is one of the main streets in the city but, like many other key roads, on Sundays from 7:00am to 2:00pm, half of it is shut off. Normally, the lanes pictured above would be full of cars driving South-to-North, with the lanes you might just be able to see on the left filled with cars going North-to-South. During Ciclovia, the N-S half is split in two so cars can go in either direction, and the S-N half is closed off to cars so only people on foot or bikes can use it.
This is the basic essence of Ciclovia: Opening up a road larger than normal to cyclists and pedestrians in order to encourage them to exercise. However, there’s a lot more to it than that.
As we keep heading North, we come to a corner in the middle of a sleepy road. At the moment, we’re in a relatively unpopulated part of the city, and it’s also very early, so there’s almost no one on the Ciclovia alongside us. We turn right and soon come to the Biblioteca Santa Domingo, a wonderful library which I will most certainly make a post about someday.
Right now we’re in front of the library on 170th St. This street does not get closed for Ciclovia. Rather, cyclists cross to the middle of the street, where they can ride on the Cicloruta, a road that was built specifically for bikes (and which remains open even after Ciclovia ends.)
We keep heading east and east until… we come to this:
Normally I would’ve turned back South a few blocks earlier to rejoin the Ciclovia, but I’m feeling adventurous, so I decided to see what was east beyond my usual path, and this seemed an interesting path to follow, so I did.
Now we’ll take a brief break from our trip as I provide a little bit of relevant context.
Faithful regular readers of the blog will know I kiiiinda maybe sorta fractured my elbow a couple of weeks ago. Exactly two weeks ago, in fact. This has been very, very painful (at times) and uncomfortable (all the time). Those of you who knew this might be wondering why I’m riding around on a bike when I have a broken arm. The truth is, these pictures were not taken today; they were taken a couple of weeks ago. Exactly two weeks ago.
This is not a coincidence.
I might be taking the practise of “flipping off creepy middle-aged men while riding my bike” to something approaching artistic excellence, but I still have a lot to learn about “taking pictures on a touchscreen phone while riding my bike”. A couple of seconds after I took the above picture, I lost my balance and fell hard on my left elbow. It didn’t really hurt at the time, which is why I didn’t go to the hospital to get it checked out. Needless to say, this was the moment when my elbow fractured, even though I didn’t realise it. Whoops.
So, yes. PSA: Don’t be a tool; stop your bike if you’re going to be taking a picture on your mobile.
Onwards we went. I have no pictures to share of the next area because the cicloruta took me through a shady part of town, but eventually I made it up to the Avenida 9a. (I’ll stop linking to Google Maps now. If you want to keep up, here’s a link to a Ciclovia map)
Soon after joining the Avenida 9a, we come to this. These little tents are set up by the city on Ciclovias to boost commerce. You can buy beef, corn on the cob, water, etc. It is absolutely delicious, and plenty of people stop here to take a break. I get myself a salpicon, a delicious drink filled with papaya, mango, and a ton more fruit, and we’re soon on our way again.
This is one of the nicest stretches of Ciclovia. The street is nice and wide, not that many people ride here, and it’s in a very quiet and calm residential area.
Soon after that we turn north and get to Usaquén. If you don’t recognise the name or the building in the background, you need to read my post about the flea market. It’s a very fun part of the city, full of fun homemade things to eat, and buy, and wear.
To the right of the flea market is the Séptima, and that’s what we ride on for the next part of our journey. We’re heading south now, and for a while we ride in one of the nicest parts of the city. I couldn’t take many pictures since I’d learned my lesson and wasn’t taking photographs while on my bike, but if you come and ride, you’ll enjoy seeing all the trees and nice buildings.
For a while, anyways. Around 60th St, the area gets a lot more shady and it becomes mostly about riding on than looking around. Now, even though I say it’s shady, that doesn’t apply to Ciclovia. Normally you’d only head to the Carrera 7a with 50th or 40th St on your bike if you wanted to get mugged or worse, but during Ciclovia hours it’s completely safe. In fact, it’s the perfect time to get to know places like the Parque Nacional without being afraid of something happening.
The Parque Nacional, by the way, is the second oldest park in the city, and it’s quite beautiful. Let me stress though that it is not somewhere you want to get to by yourself on a regular day, specially if you look American. The safety the Ciclovia provides, however, will allow you to get see this lovely park in complete safety.
We’re going to make a quick stop in front of the Parque Nacional to talk about another great thing that happens on Ciclovia: the workout areas.
These stands are set up all over the city (there was one on the Boyacá earlier on, in fact), and their purpose is just to get people moving. Jogging and biking are not for everyone, so the city has a Samba (I think) dancer lead a fun workout with loud music, or an aerobics instructor. There can be up to a hundred people in an area (the gif above is only showing about a third of the people there), which makes it easier to lose your self-consciousness and join in. It can be a lot of fun, and it’s nice to see the way people smile when they go in and dance along.
We leave the Parque Nacional, and before too long, we’re at the beginning of what I consider the cultural part of the city. From here on, the buildings will get reassuringly taller and taller, and you can find some sort of cultural repository every few blocks.
Just south of the building on the left, in fact, is the Museo Nacional, which I’ll certainly make a blog post about someday, and the Planetarium, the setting to one of the most embarrassing moments in my life. Yes, I’ll make a post about that too, eventually.
However, we’ll be looking at those another time. Today, we’ll turn right on to the 26th (also known as the Avenida El Dorado) and head west until we’re in front of the Centro de Memoria, where there’s something neat I want to show you.
Pictured above, as shady as it looks, is an official city initiative (You can tell because the guy on the left is wearing a red and yellow uniform, our city colours.) What they do here is allow you to borrow a bike for free. You show them your ID, possibly leave something with them to guarantee you’ll come back, and then they let you just take a bicycle for the day. There are other spots on the Séptima, on the Boyacá with 170th St, and farther down the 26th at the Gran Estación mall.
I couldn’t find it, but one of the places actually lets you use one of those bicycles made for two people, which makes the whole experience a lot more interesting. This initiative means even if you’re a tourist visiting and don’t know any locals with a bike to lend you, you can still take part of one of the nicest things Bogotá has to offer, and get to know the city in an unique way.
We continue due west, and soon come to a wonderful tunnel. There are obstacles to slow you down, but even so you manage to pick up a bit of speed riding under the bridge. It’s a really fun experience, though you do need to be very aware of your surroundings. I didn’t take a picture of it because, foolhardy as I am, I don’t have a death wish.
Not too long after coming out the other side of the tunnel, we see one of these activity tents. These are also scattered throughout the city, and are the mental equivalent of the workout areas we saw earlier. Here, anyone can park their bike and sit in for a chess game with a friend or stranger, play with puzzles, or participate in other mentally stimulating activities.
There are sister tents to these which have activities for children, from hopscotch to bowling, or other carnival-type games, of course. Both types of tents also tend (haha) to have water bowls, so anyone out with their best bud can let their dog rehydrate and rest a bit.
The 26th is the nicest part of the Ciclovia, take it from someone who does Ciclovia nearly every week, save when she has a broken arm. We enjoy this bit, only taking a couple of pictures on the way. After riding west a while we get to the Boyacá, then head north until we get back to where we started and complete a circuit on the Ciclovia. In total, we’ve ridden for 3-4 hours and about 38 miles, and it’s been a ton of fun.
If you’re visiting Bogotá and are here on a Sunday, you should not miss the opportunity to take part in one of the most fun and unique things this lovely city has to offer.
I hope I’ve interested you in taking part of Ciclovia if you ever come to Bogotá. I’ve never heard of anything similar in any other country, but if you know about somewhere else that does something similar, please tell me about it! Also, what’s cycling like in other countries?
I’ve heard the Netherlands in particular stands out positively in this regard.