Saturday, March 27, 2010

Biking in Cuenca

After 4 months in Cuenca, Don and I finally broke down and bought bikes back in January. We didn't buy them the first week here basically because we were terrified about getting killed by all the manic drivers. Just to give you an idea, the Ecuadorian drivers make Bostonians look polite and docile! I literally fear for my life every time I try to cross a major street. Even when there are traffic lights, which many major streets still lack, the pedestrian never has the right of way. Don started cutting out weekly newspaper articles about pedestrians getting hit and even killed. Being a pedestrian in Cuenca is something I will not miss when we go back to Seattle, the land of crosswalks that are, for the most part, highly respected.

But back to biking. Since we were having such bike withdrawals, we figured we would just ride on the weekends or on trails to minimize our contact with cars. Happily, we have found that we are actually safer and more visible as cyclists than pedestrians. Cars stop for us, treat us like another vehicle, and we have found that cruising around Cuenca on our mountain bikes is not only a blast but relatively safe.

There are fantastic rides all around. Within 10 minutes from the city, you are out in the campo, sometimes even on dirt roads and you are climbing hills. Within 20 minutes, you feel like you are in the hills of Vermont or Switzerland and you have fantastic views of the historical center of Cuenca and all its churches. Don and I have taken to riding on Friday mornings after the kids have gone to school or on the weekends.

Another great cycling event is the biweekly "Ciclopaseo" run by the city for over 20 years. On my first ride last week, I actually made the paper! (I'm 2 riders behind the guy in the black in front with my tie dye John Stanford t-shirt and Mia's strawberry helmet.) Sponsored by bicycle enthusiasts and the City, Ciclopaseo is a 2 hour ride through the city on Sunday mornings and is open to people of all ages. Last week I saw kids as young as 7 and adults as old as 70. There is a wonderful community feeling and, the best part, is we bike through major streets of the city and have an entire lane to ourselves. Jaime Lopez, the organizer and founder of Ciclopaseo, is fiercely proud and knowledgeable about his city and is a huge biking fanatic. Every Thursday, he leads a night ride around the city and every other Sunday when there is no Ciclopaseo, he leads a bunch of mountain bikers on a more rigorous ride. I want Mia and Nikki to join in, but their bikes are at the Bicicross track at school which is not convenient for us to get at all...

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