Cycling

Cycling is the new trend in Guatemala.
Every week there are about a dozen events for cyclists, from beginners to advance and pros. Some of these events are organized by local municipalities and some others are small private efforts.
Last night there was a fast ride for advance and pro riders, organized by Ciclovida Urbana -a small and independent bicycle store- a good 35ish miles ride going from side to side of Guatemala City.
A lot of the cycling events are design to promote bicycle riding as a safe commuting way, something much needed in this gas-vehicle saturated city of ours.

There are a few infrastructure project for bicycle riders too; bicycle path are popping out in a lot of place, in fact, there is one being built right outside my neighborhood, a good 1.5 miles one.

The bad

Yes, it is a step on the right directions to have these bicycle paths, but they are just independent patches of cycling infrastructure. The one outside my neighborhood is about 1.5 miles and it connects nowhere. There are much larger paths recently inaugurated on the affluent areas of Guatemala City with the same mistake; connecting nowhere. A lot of times I see these infrastructure plans as plain aesthetics projects.
One more thing, if you stand on the side of one of these bicycle paths, you’ll rarely see bicycle traffic, except for that sporadic rider.

And: One of the things a lot of these campaigns and events to promote the use of bicycles have failed to address is the Guatemalan middle class logic.
I’ve been to dozens of these events and a lot, and sometimes the majority of riders arrive at the event driving their gas consuming vehicles. Come on! if you drive your car to one of these event you are defying the logic of it!
But the worst thing about it is that most of the people who arrive by car live just a few miles from it. Guatemala City and the suburbs aren’t very large, you can ride from any of the suburbs to Downtown Guatemala City and it won’t take you more than an hour.
A couple of months ago I went to one of these event at night, we finish the ride around 10 pm and I rode my bike back home, a good 10 miles. On my ride back I see about a dozens vehicles pass by me with their bikes on their roof rack or trunks. And that’s the logic of the Guatemalan middle class. I honestly think they go to these events not because they really sympathize with the cause or understand its logic, no, they just want to show off or socialize.
Oh, let’s not forget that a car represent social and economic Status in the mind of a Guatemalan. Bicycles were/are the transport of the poor, the peasants and lower classes, fortunately this perception is changing.
And I would even dare to say that these events have not convince 1% of the participants to leave their car at home and ride to work one single day. I hope I’m wrong!

© 2014, Eli Orozco. All rights reserved.

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