The University of Iowa

Uruguay by bike

April 16th, 2019

Sunset over Rio de la Plata and the Rambla

Being over halfway through the program, I have started to settle in and get comfortable with the new lifestyle. I live about three miles from the university that I attend, and past students who have lived in the same homestay have always taken the bus. Ive had some pretty incredible struggles with the bus card, and I still dont have one that works. You can pay with cash but its a little more expensive. Long story short, I avoid the bus as much as possible.  Theyre not the most reliable, it gets expensive using it day after day, and I dont like the lack of independence.

A rainy day on the bus

One of my roommates feels the same way about it and there were two older bikes hanging up in our host familys apartment. We asked if we could use them and they said they didnt mind but they needed to be worked on. We pulled them down, replaced all the inner tubes, tightened some loose bolts, and bought locks. Theyre somewhat rideable now, mine missing one set of brakes. They have become our main source of transportation unless it rains.

Each day during the 20 to 25-minute ride to school, we take a chunk of the Rambla, the worlds longest continuous sidewalk at 13.7 miles. It runs along the coast of the Rio de la Plata for the whole length of the city of Montevideo. Its not the most direct way to get to school, but when we decided our route to get there, we figured it would be the safest, biking mostly on a wide sidewalk. Now that we are more comfortable with the city and how the traffic works, we have no issues whipping through the city on our comically functional bikes. 


Waiting for some friends on the Rambla by a beach a few blocks from the university

The bikes have changed the game. They have allowed us to get to know the streets of Montevideo. Instead of just sitting around at a bus stop and hopping on after paying absurd amounts for the fare, we just pull out a map, draw up a route, and take off. Latin America is known for having some pretty insane drivers, but Uruguay really is not too bad. I dont worry anymore about biking on four-lane streets. In fact, my roommate and I biked to an indoor soccer field to play with some friends a few weeks ago. During the game, it started to pour. The fastest way home from the field was on the 18 de Julio, the citys main street. The rain didnt seem like it was going to let up anytime soon, so we saddled up and took off, zipping through the city. When we got home, our host mom looked at us and cracked up because we were soaked and covered in mud. That was one of the most exciting bike rides we have had yet.

Thank you for reading! Ive got some exciting things coming up in the next few weeks, so be sure to check in!

Still working on my Uruguayan posture


Zane Johnson is a biomedical engineering major and Spanish minor at the University of Iowa. He is spending his semester in Uruguay on the USAC Montevideo program. 

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