Cycling in Santiago - Everything you need to know!
Santiago… One of Latin America’s best cities for cyclists? Or a hopeful wannabe on the global scale of healthy, environmentally-friendly travel?
Widely recognized as THE cycle path project of the decade, Mapocho 42K — a mammoth 42 kilometer-long, 3.4 meter-wide cycle route alongside the River Mapocho — should be ready by 2015. The route promises to link no less than eight of the city’s neighborhoods — Lo Barnechea, Vitacura, Las Condes, Providencia, Santiago Centro, Quinta Normal, Cerro Navia, and Pudahuel — offering an incredible recreational challenge for anyone who loves to travel on two wheels.
Providencia is home to the highest concentration of cycle routes in Chile — covering a total of 17.3 kilometers. Its popular Tobalaba route is two-way, and stretches along for 1.6 kilometers — linking Plaza Augusto Errázuriz and Pocuro with the intersection at Avenida El Bosque. Alameda Pajaritos is an incredible 10.45-kilometer, two-way cycle route, linking Maipú, Estación Central, and Santiago Centro. It’s the longest cycle route in the city (so far) and neatly intersects with two other popular routes — Bulnes-República and Exposición. The construction of a 50-kilometer cycle route and bank of around 500 rentable bicycles is already underway in Las Condes — the 2014 study conducted by the Índice de Calidad de Vida Urbana (ICVU) ranking the area as a leading neighborhood for quality of life as a result.
With all these achievements to celebrate — irrespective of the resources and cycling education still lacking in Santiago — there’s no denying that Chile’s capital has taken a number of important and positive steps in the right direction towards a cleaner, healthier, and less-congested lifestyle.
In particular, CicloRecreoVía wins hands down as the city’s most notable achievement to date in terms of recreational cycling. Thanks to the combined efforts of the NGO, CicloRecreoVía — and eleven of the capital’s participating municipalities — every Sunday throughout the year from 9am to 2pm many of Santiago’s main streets are converted into cycle-only zones. Here’s a list of the streets involved.
More than 40,000 people can be seen cycling across the streets of Santiago every Sunday, making the CiclRecreoVía initiative THE largest gathering of people who actively participate in physical activity for fun (instead of merely showing up as observers of an event) across the entire country.
The good news is that visitors to Santiago won’t have any problems taking advantage of the CicloRecreoVía initiative when in town, as there are plenty of cycling services available to people who don’t live in the capital. La Bicicleta Verde is one such option. Located in Santiago Centro, La Bicicleta Verde doesn’t just rent out bikes. It also organizes bicycle tours across the city. Tours or rentals can be arranged to last for anything from half a day to an entire month, and prices start from $5.000 pesos.
If you’re hoping to stay a while and are looking for something a little cheaper, Bicicletas Públicas in Providencia is a service you need to know about. Providencia has more than 180 public bicycles available for hire via Bicicletas Públicas and the cost is just $2.000 pesos a month. Vitacura offers the same kind of scheme, with 300 public bicycles available and 31 stations dotted around the area from which to hire and return. What’s more, plans are already underway for a similar public bike-lending system in the Santiago Centro area by the beginning of 2015.
And what about the daily commute? What’s Santiago doing to encourage its community to go green, reduce carbon emissions, reduce congestion on the roads, and improve health? The answer?... Santiago’s bike and metro system, BiciMetro. Around 8 kilometers of bicycle path connects one metro station to the next, with a number of designated areas outside various metro stations to safely chain bikes up before hopping onto an underground carriage.
Santiago’s transport company lists all participating metro stations, and a single cost for chaining up a bike is $300 pesos. If you buy a pack of five, you pay the discounted price of $1.000 pesos (prices correct at the time of writing).
Needless to say that, even with all the resources already in place or in the pipeline, one of the main concerns with cycling in Santiago relates to education. There’s little respect for the cyclist in Santiago when compared with the likes of European countries such as Germany or Holland — countries in which pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists all just seem to “get along”. Santiago, some would say, still has a fair way to go in terms of teaching its population about cycling respect.
There are also times when the cycle routes in the capital just end. This creates problems between pedestrians and cyclists, or cyclists and motorists. The cyclist is either forced onto the pavement or onto the road. Neither option favors the enjoyable aspect of a cycle ride, and complications occur for pedestrians and motorists as a result.
On the whole, however, there’s more to celebrate in Santiago than there is to complain about, and one of the best ways of finding out what the city has to offer is to just get on your bike and go for it!
About the Author:
Tracey Chandler is press and publicity manager for The Santiago Times and has worked as a freelance writer in Latin America since 2009. Originally from London, she left the UK in 2008 and has lived in Venezuela, Argentina, and Chile. She has written for over 15 different blogs/online magazines on subjects relating to Latin American travel and lifestyle. Contact her directly via firstname.lastname@example.org with ideas for possible long-term partnerships and/or creative projects.