Biking in Guadalajara is not for the faint of heart. That being said, we bike everywhere – to work, to the market, to the park – and we do it for many reasons – for fun, for health, for getting a better view of the city. Besides, we don’t own a car and a public transportation is not always the way to go. We’re not alone. You’ll see people biking all over the city every day. Before you don your helmet and lay rubber to pavement with the power of the pedal, there are some tips and resources we suggest you acquaint yourself with to help you stay safe and aware and maximize your cycling enjoyment here in Guadalajara.
[Guadalajaran] Rules of the Road for Bicyclists
- Check your pedestrian and biking rights at the door. Vehicle rights still rule here. We say this for your own safety. Don’t enter an intersection or cross a street thinking that the pedestrian zone always grants you the right-of-way (even if there is a crosswalk) and that people will respect this and stop for you. You’re just as likely to get hit or to at least have a scare. Seriously. There are two situations where this is particularly important to remember:
- You are in the right-most lane or in a sidewalk and are continuing straight through an intersection. You are either walking or on a bike. You and all traffic proceeding straight have the right-of-way. Safe to go, correct? NO! Watch out for automobiles in that right-hand lane turning right (often taking the turn with speed and without signaling) onto the street immediately perpendicular to you. They often won’t stop for you, but will expect you to stay out of their way as they make that turn. Observe other people on the sidewalk. You won’t see them hurriedly jumping into the street to cross without making absolutely sure cars are not a danger. Learn from those around you. While a car will usually yield to you if you time things right, don’t count on it.
- You’re in a similar spot as in scenario #1, but you’ve been waiting for the traffic lights to change so that you can begin to cross. Traffic perpendicular to you gets their red light and your flow of traffic gets its green. Safe to go, right? NO AGAIN! Guadalajaran drivers are notorious for running lights that have just turned red for their direction of travel. Once the perpendicular flow of traffic gets a red light, expect two-to-five cars to come zipping through the intersection still. If you pay attention, you’ll note that the drivers traveling in the same direction as you are waiting as well, even if they do have a green light now – they know better. Give it a few seconds, make sure nobody else is racing through, and then proceed only when the coast is clear.
- Very few intersections are equipped with crosswalk signals. Pay attention to the lights but, more importantly, to the behavior of the drivers on the road.
- It is not that uncommon to see a motorcycle or moped operator use a sidewalk or bike lane to get around a traffic jam, for parking purposes, or for some other reason. This includes police on motorcycles. Watch out for them, they might not be watching out for you.
- There are obstacles everywhere. Unfortunately, many folks will double-park their cars in a bike lane or will park next to one with their doors open into the lane. Pedestrians will walk in bike lanes despite there being huge sidewalks for them to enjoy. Other bicyclists will ride the wrong way in a bike lane. Be alert, ride with your head up.
- You’ll find that your fellow city folk might ride their bikes or motorcycles the wrong way down a one-way street on purpose to get to where they’re going. Again, head up, be alert.
- Know that the city is low on biking lanes, both ones painted onto the asphalt and bona fide dedicated lanes set apart from the roadway. Calzada de Federalismo is one city arterial exception that does have dedicated lanes in both directions, but again, don’t ignore the points above. Stretches of Avenida Yañez in the direction heading east have a dedicated lane as well.
- GDL en Bici: An organization dedicated to biking and all that it entails – safety, rights, access, the environment, and so on. The group has spawned or expanded upon numerous events and projects, including Bicicleta Blanca. For more information, see the following links:
- Casa Ciclista: The physical home of GDL en Bici, located in the Santa Teresita (Santa Tere for short) neighborhood of the city. The building houses la Bici Cueva (the Bike Cave), a community repair room open to the public during specific days and hours of the week where you can work on your bike with their tools and expertise at your disposal. It is also plays a temporary home to long-distance bicyclists passing through the city and is otherwise the general base of operations of GDL en Bici. For more info, see the following links:
- RutasGDL: They maintain a map of bike paths (ciclovías) and what appear to be locations with bicycle racks. Note the unfortunate lack of abundance of dedicated bicycle lanes. You may have to zoom out to see all map markings:
As unfriendly as the city may now sound or seem to anyone not in a car, Guadalajara is also host to some activities that, on the other hand, can make it seem like the friendliest. One of these activities is Vía RecreActiva. This awesome weekly occurrence is sponsored by the city. Every Sunday, from 8am-2pm, great extents of many major arterials and avenues are closed for recreational use only and traffic is rerouted – cars, buses, you name it, they all take a backseat for once to people and their bikes, roller blades, skateboards, wheelchairs, and feet. Volunteers manage the intersections to enhance safety and many, many people come out to get some exercise and enjoy (hopefully) beautiful weather. It’s wonderful to partake in it just for the sake of it all, but it can also be a safer way to get from point A to point B if contending with road hazards makes you skittish (and we wouldn’t blame you either). And if you don’t go for the exercise, go for the music, art, or other things! For further information, see Vía RecreActiva’s Facebook. This is the latest we were able to find on routes and points of interest: Post by Via RecreActiva Guadalajara.
Bicinema is an organization of biking and film enthusiasts who invite you to join them on a weekly group ride through some predetermined section of the city for that particular week (routes differ from week-to-week, think of it as a sightseeing tour of sorts), followed by a film viewing in a local business establishment. It’s intended to promote bicycling and it’s all free, except for whatever snacks and drinks you might get for yourself during the movie. They even have a few loaner bikes available if you don’t have your own, but no guarantees that there will be any still available by the time you show up. For more information, see their Facebook.
Paseo Camaleones is dedicated to promoting bicycle use as a means of transportation by providing cultural tours throughout the city by bike. Open to tourists and locals alike, their weekly night rides of roughly two hours center around a theme (“love of parks”, for instance) and are led by a guide who provides commentary on points of interest along the route. For further information, including equipment requirements, location, and dates and times, see their web site and Facebook.
There are many other bicycle-centric activities taking place in Guadalajara at any given moment. Following are some additional informational resources:
- Rodantes Nocturnos: An open group on Facebook that organizes night rides (the schedule is listed on the right-hand side under ABOUT).
- Biciverso: A citizen’s collective that belongs to la Red Nacional de Ciclismo Urbano, Bicired, a national network of cyclists. They publish local events and activities on their Facebook wall.
- Bici 10 GDL: Biking-related news, activities, events, and information.
Biking is a blast and a great way to get around, and hopefully we’ve helped you feel more confident about getting out there and enjoying it while at the same time staying safe. Let us know through your comments if you have any biking tips, resources, and events to share, and happy riding!