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A confused public is driven mad by Mérida’s new bike lanes

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Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Born in Mérida, Carlos Rosado van der Gracht is a Mexican/Canadian blogger, photographer and adventure expedition leader. He holds degrees in multimedia, philosophy and translation from universities in Mexico, Canada and Norway. Sign up for the Yucatán Roundup, a free newsletter, which delivers the week's top headlines every Monday.
A driver straddling the bike lane on the Paseo de Montejo, in front of an ATM, resists a policeman’s efforts to shoo him along. Photo: Lee Steele

Both business owners and drivers are frustrated with Merida’s new bicycle lanes.

Part of the problem is not knowing the rules. State and local governments have been mostly silent on the specifics of the infrastructure plan. 

“We have only heard complaints about the new bicycle lanes. The government has imposed this decision on us, but we need smoother traffic, not to bottleneck it,” Michel Salum Francis, president of Yucatán’s Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Services, told Diario de Yucatán.

While some business owners such as restaurateur Jonathan Castellanos Vargas have expressed optimism about the project, others complain that removing parking along avenues such as Paseo de Montejo is sure to hurt their businesses. No signs have yet been installed, so it’s not clear if joggers are welcome, or if and where cars can drop off passengers.  

But Everardo Flores Gómez, president of local cycling organization Cicloturixes, says his organization fully backs the project as it responds to a growing social and environmental need.

New bike lanes in Mérida have confused motorists who are accustomed to dropping off passengers or idling for quick errands. Photo: Lee Steele

The issue of bicycle lanes can be seen through the lens of class, as many of Mérida’s working poor depend on cycling to get to their jobs. With the daily minimum wage in México standing at 141.70 pesos, and the lack of bus transfers, even public transit is a luxury for some. 

Talk on social media reflects similar points of view, but the lack of information regarding the way the project is to be implemented and what exactly the transit rules regarding these new lanes will be has caused frustration. 

Tension is growing within city hall regarding the viability of the project in its current form, a source who asked to remain anonymous told Yucatán Magazine.

For instance, it is unclear what penalties drivers, motorcyclists, pedestrians or joggers face if they were to veer into the bicycle lane. Another concern is parking enforcement, as many drivers and motorcyclists have already been seen parking on bicycle lanes in full view of traffic police. 

The few eateries with valet parking in front of their establishments will have to find other ways to accommodate guests.

Bike lanes are popular in principle but details have been elusive. City authorities did not reply when Yucatán Magazine asked for comment.

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