Every Sunday, fitness-minded Santiaguinos and Santiaguinas make their way to CicloRecreoVía to cycle, run, walk, or roller-blade while spending time with friends and family, or simply working on their fitness.
Photo by Gonzalo Stierling Aguayo. Photo courtesy CicloRecreoVia.
The scope of this program is huge, with 59 kilometers of heavily-used roads closed in Santiago and over 56,000 visitors every weekend. Despite these potential obstacles, everything runs very smoothly. There are planned detours for cars and buses, and at every intersection there are "Calle Cerrada" ("Road Closed") signs and staff members with "Pare" ("Stop") signs to make sure participants are safe when crossing roads with through traffic.
CicloRecreoVía was first established in 2006, and is made possible by various private sponsors who have their own setups along the courses in the form of bike loan stations; water, fruit, and product sample stations; and small shops set up on tables under canopies which all bear the individual brand's logo. The corporate aspect of CicloRecreoVía is not big enough to be bothersome, though, especially since it allows this program to continue running smoothly and for free for six hours every Sunday.
The morning at CicloRecreoVía starts off rather quiet, with only a few people making their way along the streets that seem strangely empty without cars. As the morning wears on, more and more people begin to fill the streets: parents with children, groups of friends, people on their own, young people, older people, rollerbladers, cyclists, walkers, and runners.
Arriving earlier to CicloRecreoVía may allow one to avoid the crowds, but when more people are present it is easier to see what a wide-ranging program this is. People of all ages and fitness levels participate, and it is easy to see that is a judgement-free space. The official website says CicloRecroVia is not supposed to be a competitive space, and that any activity must be "recreational, not competitive."
Some people use CicloRecreoVía for their own personal training, speeding along with a stopwatch and state-of-the-art running shoes, while others use it as a way to catch up with friends or just have to fun, as seen with the father in a Superman costume running and pushing a stroller with two identically-costumed children.
Running, walking, or cycling along the roads many have only seen from the sidewalk gives the participant the opportunity to see Santiago in a new way. Landmarks look different, and the wide roads meant for cars give the participant room to move and not have to worry about weaving around people on narrow sidewalks.
Whatever your motivation for heading to CicloRecreoVía, it is worth a visit. It is a unique part of Santiago life that is not necessarily on the tourist circuit, and devout athletes as well as people who just want to get some fresh air will find what they are looking for. For people who want to be active in Santiago without having to pay for a gym membership or get lost in unfamiliar neighborhoods, CicloRecreoVía is an excellent option.