Wednesday, December 26, 2012
With the arrogant confidence of the naive, I planned a bicycle journey through Costa Rica. As with so many other things, in this pursuit Costa Rica gently and patiently educated me. Following the advice of my hosts, I rode the bus first to La Fortuna, then on to Monteverde. When the time came for the trip to Quepos, I briefly reconsidered inter-city biking, but seeing the roads I am now happy that I have once again chosen the bus ($8 for the 400 km trip.)
I am accustomed to cruising over smooth, wide roads with good shoulders on my touring bike. Costa Rica's roads are mountainous, narrow, and rough, giving up each hard-won kilometer grudgingly. I quickly learned that inter-city cycling would consume all of my time with travel, leaving little time for exploration. Furthermore, safety on foggy switchback roads traversed by trucks and buses is a concern. Costa Ricans travel on the extensive bus system; this is now my inter-city travel choice. Bus fare between cities is consistently between $5 and $10, and the buses are clean, efficient, and punctual. Bicycle travel is unusual, though, and frequently requires creativity on the part of both the driver and me to accommodate the bike. With this new arrangement transportation here has become a symbiosis of bus and bike travel; the two complement each other very well. I now have the time to explore each area I visit at leisure. The bus augments my ability to experience nature and communities from the saddle of my bicycle, and provides for me an opportunity to interact with my gracious Costa Rican hosts.
This idea of commonplace bus transportation, local and intercity, has a lot of appeal. With high patronage, fares are low - encouraging even more ridership. Private companies compete for routes, maintaining those low prices and encouraging good service. Buses are convenient enough that it is not necessary to rely upon an expensive, environmentally destructive automobile. As with their conservation initiatives, Costa Rica's public transportation initiatives are a model from which other nations would do well to learn.