Any given Sunday in Guadalajara you will find that many of the city’s biggest streets are completely closed to car and truck traffic. No, this is not the result of roadblocks or narco-related disturbances; there is a much less sinister explanation.
From 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., several major avenues are closed so that local cyclists, joggers, skaters and pedestrians can enjoy them in what is known as La Via Recreactiva.
Cross Section of Society
Venture onto Guadalajara’s streets during La Via and you will encounter a wide cross-section of contemporary middle-class Mexico. Typical sights include parents walking the dog while their kids glide around on rollerblades, enamored couples strolling hand-in-hand, teenagers on skateboards, hipster students on bikes, and dedicated fitness freaks braving the midday sun.
La Via Recreactiva is a social initiative launched to help the city’s inhabitants reclaim public spaces, promote exercise and healthy living, and benefit the environment by cutting down on pollution caused by traffic. It was launched in September 2004 (inspired by La Ciclovea established in Bogota, Colombia in the 1970s), attracting a modest average of 10,000 users each week along a stretch of seven miles. It has since grown considerably in both scale and popularity, with the routes in Guadalajara having grown to a length of 15 miles. Routes have been extended into the neighboring municipalities of Tlaquepaque, Zapopan, Tonala and Tlajomulco de Zuniga, total more than 40 miles and attract more than 140,000 participants each week.
La Via also provides a fun way of taking in some of the city’s nicest zones and most famous landmarks. The route from Tlaquepaque to downtown Guadalajara takes participants past the bustling San Juan de Dios market, while the most central route along Avenida Juarez/Vallarta goes past the Ex-Convento del Carmen cultural center, through the trendy Chapultepec neighborhood, beneath Los Arcos, the giant arches that used to mark the entrance to the city, and around the iconic Minerva fountain.
The leafy Parque de la Revolucion on Avenida Juarez is a perfect place to take a break; while Chapultepec offers dozens of trendy cafes should you wish to stop for coffee or Sunday brunch. Along the way, you may also encounter cultural exhibitions, games and competitions organized for children, and local artisans selling their produce on street-side stalls.
Fun and Safe
La Via is organized with the help of hundreds of volunteers, policemen, firefighters, road workers, paramedics and inspectors. This enables foreigners to mingle in complete safety with the locals and experience a healthy slice of modern Mexican culture.
Such has been the success of La Via that Guadalajara has hosted workshops conducted by the World Health Organization with the aim of spreading similar recreational routes to other cities across the world. The first Thursday of every month also brings Tapatios (natives of Guadalajara) out on to the streets with their bikes in more of a grass-roots, citizen-based ride.
Routes and bicycle stations:
La Via Recreactiva takes place every Sunday from 8:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m., as well as Mondays if there is a national public holiday. Click here for a map of the routes in Guadalajara, or see this interactive map for complete routes in all of the metropolitan area municipalities.
For those without a bicycle, there are two official stations where you can borrow one: at 8 de Julio and Avenida Juarez in Guadalajara; and on Avenida Hidalgo near the intersection with Peña y Peña in Tlaquepaque. To secure a bike, you must leave identification with event officials. This will be returned when you bring back the bicycle.