When I moved to Cartagena, I knew I wanted my mode of transportation to be more than 75% bicycle. It’s not a giant city and there’s plenty of sunshine year round here. Plus my school is about 1.7 miles from my house which is a little annoying to walk before 8 AM. So when I found a bicycle that was seemingly built for my specific needs, I was happy to make the purchase.
It’s not a name brand bicycle but it does come from the main department store here, El Corte Ingles. It’s a brand which is only sold there called B-Pro. I liked the look of it – green with a basket, and then when the salesman explained it had a reasonable 7 gears for a casual commuter, bell and a front and back light – I figured I had a winner. I payed almost 300 Euros for the bike, a helmet and a nicer lock (one with a key).
It’s been two weeks since I bought the bicycle and I’ve learned a number of things about it, the bike culture and myself. I figured I would share for any people who are in a similar situation to me – moving abroad to a small city.
- It’s not always as easy as riding a bike – When I bought this bike, I had visions of looking so chic with flowers in the basket and wind in my hair. Well – the fact is that I’m just not that poised. I’m clumsy and not totally coordinated. I caught a curb and fell off my bike last week. I was totally fine but I looked like a dipshit.
- The only rule is there are no rules – I was so excited to see clearly labeled bike lanes, zebra crossings and even signals just for bikes. Turns out that nobody follows them. The thing that does drive me the most crazy is bike lanes. Pedestrians do not give a shit if you are a bike and using the bike lane properly. Cars don’t necessarily yield for you in the same way they would yield for a pedestrian.
- People pay zero attention when they are walking – Buying a bike has made me look at the way I walk on the sidewalk completely differently. People meander around the sidewalk much more than they realize. Well over half of the people are looking down on their phones. Parents do not watch to make sure their children are out of harms way from bikes the same way they would for bikes. I am now vigilant to be in the right location.
- There’s always something to fix – Maybe it was just the bike I bought but I feel like it was jinxed. Week 1, I had to take it in for dragging breaks. The next week, my front tire went flat as a pancake and then the tube valve completely popped off when I tried to put some air in. The store helped me fix these problems but still – it was a complete pain. I had to drag my bike back to the store (about a mile each way) and then the sales associates initially did a half ass job each time.
- You get used to locking it wherever you can – Despite the well marked bike lanes – Cartagena as a city really lacks in locations to lock your bike up. I have looked far and wide and there is only one designated bike rack in the historic center of the city. Instead of being in the middle of the center (I know – it sounds goofy) – it’s all the way near the water. If you need to walk up the Main Street a mile or two, it’s just better to strap your bike to any pipe that holds still. At first, I was a little hesitant about whether it was legal or whether someone would steal it. The fact is – I normally lock it up for an hour or two at most. It’s not going anywhere.
- It is easier to commute than I would have guessed – The one thing I was a little worried about when I bought my bike was what a hassle it would be to haul it up and down the stairs of my building (which doesn’t have an elevator). Sure – the first few times were not exactly graceful but now it’s a non-issue. I can get out of the door in two minutes. Plus I think I may be building some muscle since my bike isn’t exactly lightweight.
So, I guess the big question is – at this point, would I buy the bike again? Yes. Despite the initial investment – since purchasing the bike I have paid only 7 Euro for one late night taxi ride. If I were to commute to work on the bus, it would be 1.20 Euro each direction. That’s not even accounting for transport other than commuting. I can take my bike to the nearby mall, beach, port, parks, supermarkets – anywhere I want.
While I’m definitely still getting the hang of using my bike, I think in this case, it was the right thing for me personally and financially. So – what do you think? Are you ready to make the investment? Let me know below!