By Alan Spooner, Development Director
I’ve realized that cyclists are in some ways like golfers: a golfer would never dream of traveling to a new vacation destination without playing a course there. Bike advocates are perhaps worse – not only do we bike, we keep a keen eye out for infrastructure and traffic behavior when visiting a city.
This summer I was supposed to go to a conference in Las Vegas, but our flight was cancelled so we took the insurance and went on the coolest, last minute deal we could find: Mexico City. While I didn’t bike there, I did take note of the enormity of effort in moving people there in the Western Hemisphere’s largest city. Three bike shares, one docked and two dockless, and three e-scooter shares – all taking advantage of a bright green protected bike lane running the length of the Paseo Reforma.
On my planned vacation a month later, I did ride – renting a single gear rusty Kingston for a week in Mérida, Mexico; the colonial capital of the Yucatán. What Mérida lacks in the infrastructure of Mexico City it makes up for with a predictable grid, wide low-stress streets, and some of the most courteous motorists I have ever encountered. They are patient and aware, many yielding right of way. I got acclimated to urban Yucatán biking by renting on a Sunday morning, when the streets of Centro are closed to cyclists for the weekly Bici Ruta. You can even get bike rentals for free from the local phone company on Sundays, and ride along the Paseo de Montejo. My rental for the week was $28; I brought a folding lock though most folks don’t chain up unless leaving their bike for the day.
My stay in Mérida quickly evolved into a routine of waking before dawn, plotting a route, riding to an outlying neighborhood, buying a taco, riding back to my rented house for a dip in the plunge pool, and repeating this throughout the day. Sometimes I broke up the pattern with a siesta, or a beer or mezcal at La Negrita or the Dzalbay Cantina. It was a blast, and a great way to experience the people, neighborhood markets, and spontaneous happenings – like periodic religious parades complete with marching bands, bottle rockets, and rolling closures provided by the Policía.
Surprises are a constant in Mexico, and biking favors them. Favorite experiences were buying flowers at the Mercado Miguel Hidalgo Chuburná and watching old men hit fly balls at Jesús Carranza Park. Oh, and the tacos. And panuchos. And marquesitas. And papadzules. And sopes. Oh, and mezcal.
We know our members and supporters have fantastic stories about bike riding on vacation! Tell us about your summer bike adventures outside the Greater Philadelphia region by dropping us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll share our favorites on the Bicycle Coalition blog.