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Bike Lanes Begin to Gain Traction in Guanacaste

  • Residents of Liberia, Nicoya, and Santa Cruz fight for new infrastructure in their cantons
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Dozens of cyclists ride on this edge without safety equipment at 5:30 p.m. on a weekday on the Santa Cruz- Nicoya route.Photo by David Bolaños

Residents of Liberia, Nicoya, and Santa Cruz have already started pedaling in search of their own bike lanes on freeways and highways. These residents have presented projects asking each canton’s municipal councils to invest in these structures. This movement has been occurring throughout the country, with a few successful examples.

A bike lane runs parallel to a street or highway and is usually marked by a physical barrier that allows only cyclists to use it. There are also bike paths, which are lanes marked with paint but not set apart with obstacles.

The goal of both types of lane is not just to make traffic more orderly, but also to look after the many Guanacastecan cyclists’ safety.

Throughout Guanacaste’s highlands and lowlands it is common to see professional cyclists training on highways during the morning and afternoon. Others use their bicycles as a way to get to and from work, and even to take their children to school. Very few wear helmets or use reflective lights.

These safety omissions put riders at risk of accidents, which is why the Santa Cruz community representative Jorge Leal presented a motion before the municipal council to include a budget amendment and to build more bike lanes in the canton.

His proposal includes the highway that runs between Santa Cruz and Arado to Santa Bárbara and Santa Cruz, as well as the Huacas-Flamingo route. All of these are high-traffic routes frequently used by tourists.

For the time being, the canton has only 16 kilometers of road marked for bike paths by the National Highway Council last year. This segment is between the communities of 27 de Abril and Villareal, along national routes 152 and 155.

Students Need It

Residents of Liberia do not want to be left behind, so they have proposed a bike lane along route 21 from the main entrance to the city to the local University of Costa Rica campus.

Jorge Araya, a member of the neighborhood council, said that there are many important educational institutions in this area that serve around 8,000 students daily. That is why they are taking steps so that CONAVI (National Highway Council) answers their requests.

Nicoya, on the other hand, has gotten off the bike and now walks slowly in search of a solution.

Since 2015, municipal leaders from the previous administration declared the construction of the Nambí bike lane as a project of public interest. This lane would be located between the Dos Pinos plant to the main entrance of the Las Palmas neighborhood, along Route 21.

The declaration is stuck on paper. Cristina Baltodano, current municipal councilor, said that more than 100 community members and the Nambí Development Association presented a signed document requesting the bike lane.

According to the council member, the project is currently on hold. The hope is that current members of Nicoya’s council will take up the project once again.

Yes We Can

The residents’ and municipalities’ perseverance has shown that progress is possible in this country.

At example is Montes de Oca, in San José province, where in 2014 a group of residents organized and painted a section of the canton’s routes as if they were bike paths. The project was well received by both drivers and cyclists.

“A group of civilians painted an unofficial bike path that has helped drivers visualize space for cyclists,” said architect Gillio Francesca, director of Urban Planning for the municipality of Montes de Oca.

Because of the project’s success, two more bike lanes will be built in 2017 (one is a redesign of the current lane that will incorporate both vertical and horizontal demarcation). The budget is ¢50 colones.

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