Ex-pat debate on the Cyclopista Project
Before buying a new bike, I decided to get a sense of what the bicycling community and the general Ex-pat community think about the cyclopista project with a survey of online posts and informal conversations.
Patrick O’Heffernan (Ajijic).- I am a cyclist, or at least I was until I moved to Ajijic last year. I was in bike clubs in Northern and Southern California and rode 25 – 40 miles every weekend. We were always on paved roads, sometimes in Point Reyes National Seashore or Mount Tamalpais State Park, and often along the LA beaches. Fun rides, although the hills were pretty rough.
But not as rough as cobblestones. So, when the cyclopista project started I thought: “Great, something I had wanted in LA for years. Hooray for Chapala for getting ahead of the curve”. I should have remembered my three things to take to Mexico – patience, flexibility, and a sense of humor.
Before buying a new bike, I decided to get a sense of what the bicycling community and the general Ex-pat community think about the cyclopista project with a survey of online posts and informal conversations. The results are decidedly mixed. Many say it has depressed business, others say it is making the Carretera more dangerous. People complained about narrowed lanes and that there are now no breakdown lanes heading West. What will we do in case of an emergency on the West-bound lanes of the Carretera? At least two drivers have shown us – the went over the new concrete barriers.
One post referred to the small businesses along Hidalgo in Chapala, quoting an owner who has lost 80% of her business to the project. The impact of the combined paving and cyclopista project on the hospital in Ajijic has also been mentioned – is it open for emergencies? Can ambulances even get to it, people asked?
In general, many Ex-pats praise the administration for undertaking a significant improvement for bike safety and an effort to reduce traffic, but they also blame it for beginning the project without proper planning, consultation with the communities affected, and without a plan to alleviate the danger and impact on business during construction. They also fault the administration for not supervising the project so that mistakes -like tearing out improperly positioned concrete and the current mysterious jackhammering of the already smooth surface of the cyclopista in La Floresta– routinely happen. People also grumbled that street lights are not going in as the barriers are installed so drivers have to drive in the dark.
So, a lot of people are unhappy. Is anyone happy?
Well yes. Cyclists in general feel that providing a smooth, protected lane will and is already giving riders a break from the bike-oblivious driving all around us, not to mention the cobblestones. Many in the bike community worry though, that without enforcement of laws protecting them, the cyclopista will be a marginal safety improvement or a disaster waiting to happen, as one rider put it, because cars routinely cut across it, buses use it to stop, motorbikes and ATVs treat it like a race track. Others point out that if the cyclopista is actually finished and the safety problems ironed out, it should increase bike use in Lakeside and hopefully reduce car traffic on the Carretera. Most posts are not optimistic that the project will be completed as planned and that there will be any bike safety enforcement.
However, at least one Ex-pat cyclist is very happy to see the cyclopista and posted, “Kudos to the organization &/or persons responsible for the significant bike safety upgrade along the Cyclopista from its start just east of the Hole-in-one/Sunshine Restaurant and …. towards the Libermiento.” The post goes on to say that maybe the cyclopista can interrupt the free-drive- zone of people trying to turn right on to the Libramiento with other cars coming and going from Walmart and the parking lot. That would be an accomplishment!
So, the Ex-pat and some of the Mexican community is frustrated by the cyclopista project, skeptical that it will be completed as planned and that laws protecting cyclists will be enforced, but happy there is some political willingness to reduce traffic and increase safety. Whether or not the cyclopista will accomplish these goals is certainly being debated.
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