One of the nicest ways to travel in any city is by bicycle. You travel at a reasonable speed, you can pull over whenever you want, and you are in close contact with your surroundings. But let’s face it, traffic in Lima is horrific, and it’s not a good place for a relaxing spin on a bicycle. The good news is there is one huge exception to this, and if you haven’t taken advantage of it yet, what are you waiting for?
Come check out Arequipa Avenue on Sunday mornings from 7:00 AM to 1:00 PM. For years, the City of Lima has been closing this avenue to motorized traffic from block 52 to block 3, which stretches from Miraflores through San Isidro and Lince, all the way to the outskirts of downtown Lima. The entire route takes between 1 and 2 hours to complete by bike, depending on your speed, and it is very well supervised and managed by municipal staff.
What will I see?
Apart from seeing a whole bunch of folk sharing a public space and enjoying themselves, you will see one of the most interesting avenues in Lima. Arequipa Avenue was built in 1921 and was first named “Avenida Leguia” after a Peruvian president. The name changed in 1930 after Leguia lost political favor. Back in the day, the avenue was reputed to have some of the largest and most spectacular mansions of the time. Most of these have been torn down and replaced over time by shops, institutes, and most recently, mammoth multi-family apartment buildings, but some still remain, so when you cycle down Arequipa Avenue, you have the unique chance to see some of the old mansions that harken back to another age. Better do this quickly though, as they are being ripped down at an astonishing rate.
No Bike? No Problem!
There are bike rental tents every 5 blocks or so, and the cost is only 10 soles per hour, but you do need to leave a piece of ID as a guarantee. Some of these places will also rent you in-line skates, but those locations are not as frequent. There are even a few bike repair shops scattered along the route, just in case your own bike needs a few tweaks and adjustments. Small repairs are carried out for free.
Can I bring my kids?
Yes! There are even locations on the side streets that are set up for you and specially trained assistants to teach your kids how to ride bikes and how to roller skate. One corollary though, if you decide to take your youngster cycling along Arequipa Avenue itself, be certain they keep a straight line, since other bikes sharing the same lane will be traveling faster. In my experience, they should be at least 10-years old or more, and be confident cyclists.
What else will I see?
There is an initiative to extend the route a few more blocks into downtown Lima. This was announced a few months back, but the change has not yet been completely implemented. Nevertheless, you can still navigate through a few blocks of fairly light traffic and stop off at the Museo de Arte de Lima, Lima’s principal art gallery, and check out the exposition. Or, if you are with kids, you can also spur off the main route into San Isidro and visit the Parque El Olivar, with its fish ponds and tree lined green areas. You can also decide to spend some time around Kennedy Park, at the start of the route, which offers aerobics, volleyball and more.
So get your bike on!! Sunday morning on Arequipa Avenue is not to be missed.