Two weeks ago, a friend and I had our plans for a New York weekend thwarted by that giant storm that hit the East Coast. Unable to fly into the city, we came up with an alternative plan, based mostly on where we could get (relatively cheap) tickets to less than 24 hours before leaving: Mexico City.
We hadn't planned a lot for our NYC trip, so a last-minute change of destination didn't require much of a different mindset, just a different set of clothing. Among our to-do list for New York was check out the city's protected bike lanes and bike share system (What can I say? She's a bike/pedestrian planner, I like to ride bikes) – plans that were easily transferred.
I didn't know it when I headed off, but Mexico has a growing bike culture, and is home to one of North America's largest bike-share system, Ecobici. There are protected bike lanes and bike-priority traffic lights.
But the best part: Muevete en Bici, the Sunday closing of the Paseo de la Reforma, the capital's most important street, to cars.
For about five hours, a 15-kilometre stretch of multi-lane divided street (they call it Mexico City's Champs-Elysees) is full of adults and kids on foot, bike, skateboards and skates. The many fountains and statues along the route make for excellent sightseeing, and the route wanders through Chapultepec Park, the largest of the city's greenspaces.
The route was dotted with repair stations and bathrooms and entertainment, making for a festival-like atmosphere. There were also a number of organizations teaching people how to ride bikes, which was great to see.
A lot of the cyclists were on their own bikes, but the city's Ecobici bikes were also present (but not available to non-residents), as were Bicigratis and other a free bike-loan schemes (three hours, ID required). We tried in vain for several hours to find a bike to borrow, before joining a queue at noon, about the time the first riders would be returning their bikes.
We got single-speed, mountain-bike style bicycles, geared a bit higher than I'd choose, but fine for the almost totally flat route. We joined thousands of others to enjoy the sunshine and fresh air and see a slice of the city – the best 2 1/2 hours of the trip.