7 Handy tricks in surviving Santiago on 2 wheels
Santiago might not be a bike haven like Amsterdam, Berlin or Copenhagen but that hasn’t stopped it from being named Latin America’s most cyclist friendly city.The city’s infrastructure isn’t necessarily created for cyclists, but they refuse to be denied the right to weave between agitated drivers and baffled pedestrians. They are taking to the city in their masses, and somehow it seems to be working out just fine.
Bike Santiago is a bike hire system that is city wide with the exception of the Las Condes section of Santiago. You can simply pick up your bike from one side of the city where you wish to begin your trip and then drop it off at one of the 140 pick up and drop off points throughout the city. The scheme allows you to pay daily or alternatively sign up for a weekly, monthly or annual subscription. However you need a Chilean ID card in order to do so. Do Not Worry… you can rent bikes with labicicletaverde.com!
The bikes are made and designed well so you shouldn’t expect to board a wobbly disheveled bike – because you don’t own the bike you don’t have to worry about paying for repairs there are mechanics that check bikes regularly exchanging faulty ones with spanking clean working ones…. What could be better?! Although if your chosen bike happens to be one thats previous owner mistreated it, that’s -the luck of the bike share draw.
The idea of spending the day in the office to finally arrive home having to change into your workout gear and work out doesn’t appeal to most. Commuting to work via bicycle allows you to exercise without really re-oiling it. A slap on the face with some fresh air awakens the soul and makes a welcoming change to the musty smell of the gym alongside judging eyes gazing at one’s love handle.
Improving the city for all cyclists
The number of cyclists has doubled since 2006 to around about 1 million daily. This number looks at increasing with the implementation of Bike Santiago and bicycle tour companies such as La Bicicleta Verde. Drivers are becoming increasingly aware of cyclists giving people more confidence to get on their bikes and tour the city. The more cyclists that get out on the road the more drivers become conscious of them. However the reason people use the bike hire system is most likely because they don’t own bikes themselves, ergo have little experience on them. The orange cyclists can be dangerous, just be glad the bikes have such a bold color so they are hard to miss.
In rush hour Santiago can be a manic place to be with people pushed into the Santiago metro with personal space being tested even for South American standards. Above ground isn’t much better with standstill traffic, agitated drivers and horn sounds coming from every direction. The freedom to cycle rids you from these woes whilst decreasing the amount of people in both cars and public transportation.
Lack of assistance
There is an abundance of reasons why people should be getting on their bikes in Santiago. However for those who don’t live in Santiago and aren’t aware of the sites, routes and hidden gems of Chiles capital Bike Santiago is unable to help.
A great way to find out the good spots in the city at the same time being provided the bike essentials such as helmet and bike locks is to check out La Bicicleta Verde. Questions can be answered and worries subsided. Mountain Bikes are also provided if you’re a more adventurous cyclist enthusiastic for a challenge and to check out the mountain range that encloses the city. Alternatively if you are lucky enough to have a better half or even just a friend that you like to get romantic with, grab one of the tandems to be inseparable even by bike.
Renting through La Bicicleta Verde is beneficial because a detailed map of the city is provided and staff are experienced in cycling in Santiago so can suggest the perfect route for you. The team at La Bicicleta Verde are flexible and will rent out bikes for as long or short of period of time which is desired. Not only are you reducing your carbon footprint in the overpolluted, you can also go through all the side street and alleys where the magic happens.
Before you aboard your saddle
Know the law
It is illegal in Santiago to not wear a helmet. Regardless of where you’re from, you could be stopped and ticketed. You’ll notice in Santiago that there are very few people that ride without a helmet, it’s not worth the ticket nor the potential head injury.
Hand gestures should be used when turning and reflective gear should be worn around daybreak and sunset.
Cycle paths are present in some areas in Santiago such as along the machopocho river. Keep in mind these paths are also used for pedestrians.
Plan your route
Its always good to know your destination or at least where you are on a map. This allows you to plan out your route to avoid the larger less bike friendly roads. Keep in mind with less experienced cyclists and children it is a good idea to keep off the main roads.
Gear up !
Aside from a helmet cyclists should consider other equipment such as lights (Santiago is dark from around 7pm until 9am in winter time), a bike lock (although Santiago is considered one of the safest cities in South America petty crime is an issue and your bike needs to be locked up and looked out for), your water bottle (this whole cycling thing can be thirsty work).
So you’re on the road !
Know the rules of the road
These are things most people know from driving, cycling or mopeding around in any place. Just keep in mind, stick to the right side in Chile !
Eyes and ears open
City cycling requires dealing with a large capacity of car, foot and bicycle traffic. Music being played through headphones is invented with bus passengers in mind, definitely not cyclists.
Moving cars are dangerous… so are parked ones
Let me paint you a word picture. A man has just parked their mercedes benz on a side street outside his office. He gathers his papers and lunch for the day concerned that he is running late for his morning meeting. At this point a cyclist turns onto the quiet side street taking a breath, they have just escaped the wrath of the busy main street. Simultaneously as the cyclist is breathing and the man is rushing out the car for his meeting… BANG. We have a cyclist/ car door collision. Now you may never have been in one, you may never have even seen one, but everyone knows a friend of a friend that has experienced this first hand. Drivers should know to check for cyclists but it’s important to always be aware of potential obstacles.
Don’t be scared to DING !
In some cultures using a car horn is seen as aggressive and rude, only to be used when truly necessary. Not to be confused with a bicycle bell. Not only is its playful ‘dinging’ friendly and inoffensive it allows people to know of your presence incase they were planning on taking any sharp turns while you are trying to breeze past them.
You’re good to go. BE FREE AND CYCLE! Just take some deodorant in your bag, all this Santiago Cycling business can be sweaty work. But don’t worry, you’ll look great!