Sunday, February 12, 2012

Cycling in Quito, Ecuador: riding the ciclopaseo

I've been in Quito, Ecuador for a few days. I've spent a lot of time walking around, which I really I like to do. But there's no better way to see a city than by bike, and so I was thrilled to partipate in the Ciclopaseo ("Cycle Sunday") today.

My rental bike near Inglesia La Magdelena
The Ciclopaseo is a 30 km route in Quito that is closed to traffic each Sunday. Upwards of 40,000 cyclists are said to participate each week, along with some runners, walkers and rollerbladers.  Quito is a long, skinny city (never more than 5-10 km wide), and the route winds from north to south.  Here's the route map.

Riding through Quito's Old Town towards the small hill called El Panecillo

I rented a bike from the Cyclopolis organization, the organizers of the event.  It was kind of clunky, but very economical at just $8 for the day.  I headed south, planning to ride to the southern terminus of the route (said to be more scenic), then loop back and ride north until I tired.

Big view from the base of El Panecillo, Quito

View opened up as the route curved around the base of El Panecillo

The ride headed through a few parks, then climbed gradually into the Old Town (Centro Historico), which is highly scenic! After some turns and ups and downs, we were on a curving road running around the perimeter of El Panecillo, a prominent hill to the south of old town. The hills were neither long or particularly steep, but I was definitely feeling the altitude on the climbs- Quito is at 9000 feet.

View of Basilico con Voto Nacionale church towers,  Quito Old Town

Riding in Quito Old Town
 I was really happy to be riding!  Walking is nice, but it's so much fun to ride around new places. Plus, you can cover more ground.

Riding up one of the short hills towards La Alameda park

Cyclists relax in La Alameda

The course was well marked and there were mechanics, water and information booths every couple of miles.  I reached what I thought was the southern terminus, turned around and headed back north.

Cobbles on Avenue Amazonas, in the Mariscal Sucre district

I rode and rode. My legs started to feel a bit tired, so I refueled at a bakery along the route.  After a bit, I was surprised to see the route turn up a freeway on-ramp-  we were on the Pan American highway! 

Slightly less scenic portion to the north, where the route goes onto the Pan American highway, pasing right by the (old) Quito airport

Some longer, but gradual hills started at this point.  I continued along, and eventually reached the northern end of the route.  After a snack, I retraced my path to my starting point, then rode back through some parks that I wanted to check out again.

Plantain chips from a vendor along the course. Yum
What a total blast! I ended up riding about 54k. When I checked the route map after the event, I figured out that I'd turned around early when I was riding south. bummer. Note for next time: the ends of the course are marked with signs.

What a great way to see the city (can you tell that I had a great time?).  My pictures don't reflect this, but there were a ton of people out there, mostly on bikes, but plenty of walkers and runners as well. Lots of kids and families riding together and a surprising number of people riding with their dogs in baskets or child seats. Folks were mostly on mountain bikes but there were some road bikes mixed in as well. The roads were in pretty good condition with limited glass. And of course, completely free of auto traffic. Quito's streets are dominated by cars, taxis and buses during the day and it was a pleasure to be able to explore them in the absence of vehicles!

Some info on the event:
Rentals: are available along the route. I rented from Ciclopolis (organizers) at Ave Amazonas at Jorge Washington Sts (they required that I leave an "identity document", such as passport or other official ID- I left my drivers license rather than the passport).  Ciclopolis had at least two other rental stations set up at different points along the course (one of which had some newer-looking bikes), plus there were several shops along the route in La Mariscal and further north. I'm sure there are other places to rent; these were the ones I noticed today.

When: every Sunday, 9-2 (some websites said every other Sunday but I confirmed with the organizers that it is weekly now). The roads close earlier- I started at 8:15 and there were a lot of folks riding already at that point. 


djconnel said...

Fantastic! Could you imagine "Sunday Streets" taking over a lane of 101 or 280? Great stuff.

Unknown said...

Hi. I fly into Quito Sunday morning April 29th. I had read about the Ciclopaseo being every other week and was worried. Glad that you confirmed it to be weekly.

I would like to put my bike together right at the airport and start riding. Did you notice how close you got to the airport? The map you link to seems to have the northern portion of the route pretty close but it is hard to tell.

I have ridden similar events in Bogota and Medellin so I share your enthusiasm on how great they are.

Mark Dodge

NadiaMac said...

Hi Mark
It goes right by the airport (you can see the exit sign for the airport in my picture from the Pan American highway portion of the route). Have a great time on the ride!