Vallarta en Bici, Rethinking Urban Mobility
Local collective Vallarta en Bici is reaching its 4th anniversary this year and Ricardo Murrieta, one of the founders, recalls that day in 2012, when he and four other people launched a call to everyone interested in encouraging cycling and non-motorized mobility in the city. “We were truely impressed when over 60 people attended the meeting, but only 15 of us remained and created the group,” he recalls.
The first activity they implemented was the Night Bicycle Ride, taking place every Wednesday at 9 pm and going from Marina Vallarta’s Whale Sculpture to Los Arcos in the Malecon and back. This initiative was created as a relaxing bicycle stroll that everyone could experience and downtown Puerto Vallarta represented the best location for that.
It has been a long journey from those first steps towards the consolidation of an entire community enjoying the activities and recreational bicycle rides organized by Vallarta en Bici. However, there is still a long way to go to increase the population’s awareness of the bicycle as a daily, alternative mode of transportation. Ricardo is convinced that fostering this notion will bring benefits beyond personal health and better air quality in the city, as some of their past initiatives have demonstrated. Reto modal (Modal Challenge) was a program they and other collectives joined, which compared the efficiency of different means of transport, including cars, public transportation, bicycles, motorcycles, walking and even wheelchairs.
“We found out cycling is five times faster than walking, a car generates 100 times more contamination than bicycles and wastes equal number of times more energy. The motorcycle emissions are lower than cars’, but not enough to be more efficient than bicycles. Furthermore, we have to consider that cycling is your own body in motion and costs nothing”
Aside from the Night Bicycle Ride, another circuit carried out by Vallarta en Bici is the Recre-Active Way held every Sunday from 8 am to 12 pm along Francisco Medina Ascencio Avenue and Marina Vallarta. Cyclists are not the only group that attends. Sportsmen and women usually can be seen jogging and running all along the way next to parents pushing strollers at a leisurely pace. Along with the Urban Bicycle Ride, a longer ride for advanced cyclists heads towards La Cruz de Huanacaxtle and San José del Valle in Riviera Nayarit, as final destinations. “Maintaining these activities has been our most important achievement in all these years, I think.”
In terms of infrastructure improvement, Vallarta en Bici played a critical role in the widening of sidewalks and bicycle lanes projects in downtown Puerto Vallarta, conceived by one of its members and presented by the collective. Thought this was an important accomplishment, Ricardo believes many more things can be done, for example, the implementation of bicycle lanes sharing the space with vehicles, which doesn’t imply a large investment. These would be indicated by signage on the streets and don’t require any type of construction. Moreover, he suggests changes in the municipal Transit Regulation, increasing taxes for those who use motorized vehicles as a way to offset the expenses caused by pollution.
“None of us uses only one mode of transportation. Even if I used my car 90% of the time, I would still have to walk, there’s no way to avoid it. Therefore, I am a pedestrian and a car driver, so we need to picture ourselves in both situations and demand an all-encompassing urban mobility strategy.”
There is also an important challenge for the citizenship: overcoming the fear to ride the bicycle in traffic. Ricardo emphasizes that Puerto Vallarta is still a bike-friendly city, compared to others around the country, and encourages riders to take the streets. “I’ve ridden my bike everyday from my house to work for about four years and I’ve never had an accident.”
Moving towards this goal, Vallarta en Bici is planning a course titled How to Ride Around the City Safely, whose objective is to identify the main routes in the city and explain participants the way car drivers think, so they will be able to anticipate their moves. The dates and time for this activity are yet to be determined.
Strengthening the confidence of people has been a top priority for the collective since its inception. Facing personal challenges truly changes lives and Ricardo has witnessed people becoming healthier by training and changing their habits. The organization’s latest event, the San Sebastián Challenge, celebrated last week, is the perfect example of that. Eighty participants trained for two months to achieve the physical condition required to ride from Puerto Vallarta to the popular town hidden in the Sierra Madre mountains, proving that anyone can complete that kind of challenge.
Ricardo’s commitment to cycling goes beyond the Vallarta en Bici activities, he and his family own an establishment located on Francisco Villa Avenue, named Aequilibrium, offering a wide range of cycling services, including bicycle sales, rental, repair, maintenance and accessories such as specialized clothing. In that sense, Ricardo notes that although the use of helmet is not formally required in the city, it is highly recommendable.
In addition, Aequilibrium offers guided rides around Puerto Vallarta and Banderas Bay for different cycling modalities, from mountain biking in the Sierra Madre to road cycling tours on paved routes.
“I think we are so privileged to do what we love. When I was a child, my parents and I used to go riding and I still love the feeling of the wind on my face. Moving from one location to another by myself is something that inspires me”
Keep in Mind
- Before riding your bicycle in the streets, make sure you’re bike is in a good condition. Even those thatare new have to be examinated and adjusted by an expert.
- Do not forget the helmet and other gear like bike mirrors, lights and bright clothing.
- Attending the Vallarta en Bici events is a good way to start your training if you want to use the bicycle as a daily mode of transportation.
- Stay focused! Do not use headphones while riding, you will need all your senses to succeed
For more information about the Vallarta en Bici activities and events, please follow its Facebook Page by clicking here.