Sundays in Latin America are awesome. And it’s all Bogota’s fault.

Every Sunday since the 1970s, Bogota shuts off its streets to traffic and opens them up to the people during an event called the ciclovia. More than one million bikers, pedestrians and roller bladers take over 60-plus miles of highway.

From 7 am to 2 pm, the city becomes a living gym.

Bogota Ciclovia

Every Sunday, more than 60 miles of highway are closed to traffic. During Bogota’s weekly ciclovia, more than one million bikers and pedestrians take over the city’s streets.

There were casual strollers like us but most people were in all-out workout mode. They wore sweat bands, spandex and sneakers. We were passed by a lone kid on his tricycle, a grey-haired woman in tights, and a man in a wheelchair.

It was busy but not crowded. The smell of oranges in the fruit vendors’ carts mixed with exhaust from the few roads open that day. In the parks there were martial arts classes and drum circles.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen residents enjoy their city so much.

Over the past 40-plus years, the concept of Bogota’s ciclovia, Spanish for bike pathway, has spread throughout Colombia and Latin America.

It influenced two of our trips this year.

In Rio de Janeiro, the normally congested beachside highway is closed on Sunday. We watched sand sculptors and tight rope walkers perform along the sidewalk. In Mexico City, we spent Sunday afternoon people-watching in the park. Trampolines with nets were set up for the kids. One man walked his iguana. (You can see a video here.)

After the success of Bogota's ciclovia, Rio de Janeiro decided to shut down the highways by the beach on Sundays.

After the success of Bogota’s ciclovia, Rio de Janeiro decided to shut down the highways by the beach on Sundays.

In Bogota, we walked more than 80 blocks of the ciclovia. Every few streets a bike mechanic repaired broken chains and flat tires. Vendors stood next to carts piled with fruits we didn’t recognize.

At one point, a roller blader in front of us slipped and hit the pavement with a “thud.” Greg helped her up.

“Gracias,” she said, embarrassed.

Bogota Ciclovia Sign

A sign marks the roads that are closed for Bogota’s Sunday ciclovia.

Video: the Bogota ciclovia

See clips from Bogota’s ciclovia in the video below.

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