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Bicycles in Merida

As a rule, Sundays are slower and quieter in the Centro Historico, where many of the gringos here in Merida live. The main zocalo and a few blocks on Calle 60 are shut off to traffic and booths are set up to sell everything from panuchos to guayaberas. Music is in the air and there is dancing in the streets. Sunday is traditionally a family day and it is always a pleasure to walk downtown and see the people of Merida enjoying their city. Merida en Domingo (Merida on Sunday) may seem perfect for tourists, but the party is mostly staged for and enjoyed by residents.

Now, the ayuntamiento (city government) has added a new program for the local residents that promises to be an incredible success.

When the Working Gringos rolled back into town on Friday night, we noticed large banners strung up above Calle 60 announcing the Bici-Ruta. We had no idea what this was, though it did seem obviously related to bicycles. We haven’t owned a bicycle since we moved here, because though Merida is a pancake-flat city (which would seem to make it a easy place to ride), there is so much traffic that it just didn’t make bicycling particularly appealing.

Walking the dogs on Paseo Montejo this morning we were pleasantly surprised to learn that Bici-Ruta is a new city program that closes down Paseo Montejo and all of Calle 60 (from the Plaza de la Bandera on Paseo Montejo all the way to the La Ermita church) to car traffic and opens it up to bicycles. Gas-powered traffic is now closed on this route from 8 am until Noon every Sunday.

Starting at about 7 am this morning, we saw men and women in orange vests putting up professional signs all along the route. At exactly 8 am, a truck drove the route, blowing a whistle and the signs were put out into the street. Car and bus traffic was rerouted. At 8:01 am, the bicyclists started arriving from all the side streets. It was a beautiful thing to behold.

Before we knew it, Paseo Montejo was filled with all kinds of cyclists: professional cyclers with their tight shorts and aerodynamically-correct helmets, leisurely older people cycling in pairs, teenagers riding in groups and showing off for each other and parents with children.



Lots of children. Children just learning to ride, children with training wheels, children on tricycles. There were roller skaters, power-walkers, dog walkers… we even saw one man on a recumbent bicycle (a rare sight here).

At the park at the end of Paseo Montejo (roughly in the middle of the Bici-Ruta) a man on a loudspeaker announced a free Tai-Chi class starting at 8 am. About 8 people jumped off their bikes and began participating in the stretching and dance-like movements. Later on, when we passed by the same location, a crowd of children were working with a few adults creating piñatas, which the man on the loudspeaker assured us were for taking home (para llevar a su casita…). Each week, he added, there would be an adult health program at 8 am, and something for the children from 9 to 11 am.

All along the route were both local police and Bici-Ruta officials, directing traffic and ensuring safety. There was even an ambulance parked near the park, waiting to swoop in and take care of any emergency. People were laughing, children were yelling and onlookers were smiling. The mood was joyous and full of fun. It felt like someone had called “Olly, Olly, Oxen-Free!” to the city, and people had come out from behind doors and under tables to play again in the streets. The city had been taken back from the cars and given over to the people.

Needless to say, the experience made us want to run right out and buy a bicycle.

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25 Responses to “Bicycles in Merida”

  1. Just want to say how much I enjoy your site. I have been reading for several months now and decided I should at least make a comment!

    I am at the reinvention stage of life (don’t say retirement!) and am looking at a number of Mexican cities in which to spend some extended time.

    You surely make Merida appealing – you’re a GREAT ambassador.

    I appreciate the time you put into this and enjoy following along.

  2. Thanks, Ron!

    We’ve traveled to a lot of places in Mexico… and Merida is one of the most wonderful cities here. Merida has history and culture, fairly inexpensive real estate, less traffic and practically no crime. There are other places we like as well… Morelia, Aguascalientes, Jalapa, etc. In fact, we think there are a lot of wonderful places in Mexico… and Mexico is a perfect place to reinvent your life!

    Probably relocating to any new country opens up your mind to learning new things. But few places are as wonderful as Mexico for opening up your heart and soul.

  3. I would love to see Merida with a Ruta Non Traffica!!! I bet it was just wonderful even if you didn’t have bicycle to ride.

  4. This is SOOO great! We just purchased a little house in Merida this spring and I am an avid cyclist. My only complaint about Merida was that it looked difficult (congested) to cycle.
    This sounds like utopia! So glad you wrote it up.

  5. As a Yucateco trapped in “U.S.Imigration Limbo” reading your stories is the best way of making imaginary trips to my beloved land. I see Merida through your eyes and rejoice in reading those wonderful stories. I haven’t been home in 11 years and time after time my heart travels back home with this site. I know you are serving a great deal as an ambassador of the Yucatan to those thinking of reinventing themselves. Also wanted to let the Working Gringos know how much it means for some of us to be able to feel at home when reading your stories. Your vivid descriptions, great pictures and videos are worth more than a thousand phone calls to any of my paisanos. From the bottom of my heart thanks for it all.

  6. Thanks so much, Roy. We’re sorry to hear about the immigration issues. During our recent road trip to the other side and back, we noticed yet another cultural difference between the U.S. and Mexico. As some may recall, we imported our formally U.S. car into Mexico, so now it sports Yucatan license plates. So naturally we were stopped at three different points in the U.S. southwest and asked, in Spanish, for our “permisos” (visas). As soon as we opened our mouths, the border agent realized he was dealing with gringos and let us continue. Never were we asked about bringing our Mexican car into the states or if we had purchased the required U.S. auto insurance. Nobody cared to inspect anything we were carrying with us. When we crossed back into Mexico, nobody cared about our nationality or asked to see our visas. All they wanted to know is whether the car was imported legally and what we were bringing back into Mexico with us.

    In the U.S. it’s all about who you are. In Mexico, it’s all about your stuff.

  7. Well…hmm…I don’t want to seem too contrary here as this is one of my favorite web sites, but I wonder if your experience can be attributed to a “cultural difference”. The major problem the US has with cross-border traffic from Mexico is people entering without documents, so it is understandable that the US would concentrate on that. To the best of my knowledge, Mexico does not experience the same volume of people entering illegally from the US, so it is likewise understandable that they would not devote much time to that issue.

  8. Hola Dan,

    The immigration issue is huge right now, and we’re not particularly qualified to discuss it.

    But having said that…

    We’re not sure how the Mexican government would know whether they have a problem with illegal immigration or not, since in our five years of living here and several thousand miles of travel through this country, nobody has ever asked to see our visas! In fact, when we offer our visas as proof of identity (when cashing a check or using a credit card), Mexicans are usually dubious (they don’t know if it’s an official document). They prefer instead to see a driver’s license or passport. Our guess is that the Mexican government, like most governments in the world, doesn’t really care who you are, as long as you’re not a criminal and they’re collecting taxes from you.

    What we have also learned is how *supposedly* easy it is to earn permission to enter the U.S. from Mexico. The main qualifications for a tourist visa are a clean criminal record and $3,000 in a bank account or title to a residential property in Mexico, presumably to show that you have a reason to return. Problem is, roughly half of all Mexicans are Native Americans who do not believe in banks and own their land collectively or cannot prove they own it according to modern standards.

    Despite this, the other half of the Mexican population consists of middle and upper class wage-earners. Fact is, tens of thousands more Mexicans enter the U.S. each year legally and return to Mexico than enter without documents, but the process has been tampered with politically in the past few years, adding various delays and humiliations, which can be quite frustrating to the Mexicans who would otherwise qualify.

    The “problem” of Mexican immigration is historically recent. The average U.S. citizen would be surprised to learn how Mexicans have contributed to U.S. development over the years. Most of the states in the Southwest depended on Mexicans for their economic development from the beginning, as they were once Mexico and most of the industry originally Mexican. Later, beginning around the second world war and until the 1960′s, the “bracero” program kept the borders open to Mexican workers so they could support the depleted U.S. labor force. Growing up in California, we noticed how as the Filipino agricultural workers who immigrated after WWII eventually left the fields, their ranks were filled by Mexicans. Unfortunately, many of the U.S. corporations that employed the Mexicans were so abusive that at one point the Mexican government sent troops to the border to prevent their people from entering the U.S. The corporations allegedly paid members of the U.S. military to open corridors of immigration so the workers could enter against the wishes of the Mexican government!

    Since then, the U.S. and Mexican governments, with the encouragement of their corporations, have cooperated more than the average U.S. or Mexican citizen realizes to provide inexpensive labor to the U.S. and cash remittences to Mexico. It all seems to us a rather twisted if symbiotic system, but the consequences sure play well during an election cycle on either side of the border.

    There is a (rather dim) light at the end of this tunnel, because now that many U.S. corporations are opening businesses in Mexico (thanks to NAFTA), there are plenty of new jobs being created south of the border, which is supposed to reduce illegal immigration, right? But while an entry level worker at Burger King in California makes $8 dollars an hour, the same Burger King worker in Merida makes $4.50 a day (read that again).

    If you were a burger flipper, at which Burger King would you prefer to work?


    This is the heart of the matter. Mexicans are no different than anyone else when it comes to making that sort of decision.

  9. I have always found it strange how the cars, bicycles, motorcycles and taxis get around as well as they do in Merida. I always felt that the busses are the nuisance. This is a great site, keep up the good work. Merida is where I plan to go when the opportunity is right.


  10. [...] This Sunday, hop on your bicycle or walk the Bici-Ruta to the beginning of Paseo Montejo and drop in at the art exhibit, and buy some original art! What a lovely way to spend a Sunday! [...]

  11. [...] Have you ridden your bicycle lately? Don’t forget the Bici-Ruta http://www.merida.gob.mx/biciruta/ Click on Programa de Actividades There’s something for everyone on bikes in Merida on Sunday! Read about it here. (Please rate this article)  Loading … [...]

  12. Whats the cost of an upper middle class life style in merida compared to the US

  13. Hola, John…
    That is such a hard question to answer and takes into account so many things. Cost of real estate, groceries, taxes, schools, etc. In general all those things are cheaper than MOST places in the US, certainly cheaper than where we come from (California).

  14. …around the art galleries, the churches, the museums; experience more cultural activities; ride the bici-ruta; …

  15. Roy, you are not alone! I would recommend saving money and move back as soon as you can. If you are like me, you are deeply in debt, with no nest egg! I have been working on making the big move for the past 3 years, I have bought a large piece of land in Yucatan and when I am done building the house of my dreams I will return to my beloved Mexico. I don’t blame people wanting to come to the US to earn a better living, I am upset at my self and others that once we get here we “pretend” to live the American Dream, we finance a house, car, boat you name it and expend the rest of our lives paying for it. Even at 62 I will not be able to stop working b/c will not have enough to pay for my mortgage. Re immigration issue – If an immigration reform becomes a reality, and that’s a big IF, we will still be discriminated against, paid lower wages, looked at with hate – illegal or not illegal! It seems like the only illegal aliens in the US are from Mexico! Illegal aliens are being called criminals and terrorists, people forget that the terrorists had visas and $$, Government will direct your attention to illegal aliens whenever they want to distract your attention from other issues like the war on Iraq. The number of industries sending jobs overseas has increased drastically, US companies are now importing “smart” people from India, Korea & Japan and illegals are still being blamed for taking jobs away. Soooo, why not go back to our country? Invest the 16.6 B that we send to Mexico in a business that will sustain us.

  16. Hola,

    We’re here now, and loving Merida. And, as always, refer to Yucatan Living for our information! Thought I saw mention of a place to rent bicycles at the ‘start’ of the Bici Ruta for $60pesos. Where is this place? We’d love to particiate in this aspect of Merida en Domingo. Life in Merida is good, especially on Sundays!

    Thanks for your help!
    Mary K

  17. Hola and bienvenidos, Mary K!
    The place to rent bicycles is not actually at the “start”, it’s in the middle. Go to the Monumenta de la Bandera (Monument of the flag) on Paseo de Montejo… it’s north of where the Fiesta Americana and Hyatt Hotels are. North of Walmart. When you get there, you can’t miss it… it’s a sculpture that takes up the entire roundabout. There’s a MacDonalds on one side, and the bike rental is on the other side.

    Have fun!

  18. amazing article to come accross……I am one of the account managers for Merida Bicycles in New Zealand. So not only do we have an awesome brand with top level bicycles, but I can now tell my dealers about this place in Mexico of the same name that has a morning devoted to cycling! love it!

  19. Hi there, I have recently moved to Merida and enjoy this city. Can you direct me to a good bicycle shop in the city. A web link would be very helpful.
    Your site is so helpful.

  20. Hey Kenny,

    There are plenty of bicycle shops in Merida, probably one of the oldest and largest is BICIMOTOS, its main location is on calle 59 x 74 & 72

    Their website is http://www.bicimotos.com.mx but they don’t have all their products there and I think you can’t shop online, maybe you should pay them a visit! Actually, I’m gonna go myself this saturday to buy something :P

  21. Hey, i’m a yucateca and believe it or not, i have never gone to bici ruta. But i really want to. I was wondering… do you know if the place that rents bikes also rents roller skates?

  22. We don’t think they rent skates there… sounds like a business opportunity!

  23. I have being living in paradise down here in the caribbean, Aruba to be exact for the last 25 years, I am born Mexican and grew up in the city of Merida and are getting ready to go back home, it was sure very nice to read about Domingo por la mañana in Merida as I have being cycling for the past 15 years. Good article will make sure to take part of the bici ruta.

  24. Are there inexpensive car rentals in or around the historic district? We are coming to Merida to check out retirement possibilities and need an alternative to buses.
    Would a scooter be advisable?

  25. A scooter would not be advisable in most cases for an initial exploration of the city.

    Cars can be rented from major agencies like Avis, Hertz and others at the airport. Others have had luck with a local company called Easy Way Rent A Car http://www.easywayrentacar.com which has an office in Merida, as well as Montejo Car Rentals, National, Payless, and La Curva Car Rentals http://yucatanseasonalcarrental.com/ .

    Here is a link to an entire forum discussing car rentals:

    and a discussion, including insurance , found here:

    This is not an endorsement of any agency. It is simply a listing of various agencies available that others have mentioned they used and were satisfied with.
    Your mileage may vary. :-)


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