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Baja California Information Pages

Bicycling the Baja Highway

The idea of bicycling the highway down the Baja peninsula is one which seems to have reached its peak in the late 80's and early 90's. The groups cycling the highway under the direction of sponsoring organizations (both commercial and non-profit) have vanished. It has been reported to me that increased traffic on the highway has prompted this decision. I only see individual riders and small unsupported groups on the highway these days.

From the point of view of being a frequent driver of the highway I could dedicate quite a few words to arguing the dangers of this activity to both the bicyclers and the people in passing vehicles. What I will do instead is simply present the basic arithmetic of the highway from the view of someone riding a bicycle - you may then draw your own conclusions regarding safety issues.

Basic Arithmetic of the Baja Highway

    Width of the pavement:                    19 feet
    Width of the shoulder:                     0 feet

    Width of a truck/bus/RV:   8 feet
    Added width for mirrors:   1 foot
    Width used by two passing trucks/etc:     18 feet

    Safety separation used by
      two passing trucks/etc:                  1 foot

    Room left for a bicycler:                  0 feet

The highway was constructed to just accommodate two passing 8-foot vehicles, and no more! Many of the roadsides drop off anywhere from a few feet to a few hundred feet (in these extreme cases, there will usually be a low guard rail right at the edge of the pavement). Also, the edge of the pavement will often have chunks broken off or washed away, leaving "edge potholes" which have to be dodged.

February, '97: I'm now going to back off on my vow to not argue safety issues. On my trip north I had a very close call between Vizcaino and Guerrero Negro. For a brief instant of time, there were three "vehicles" sharing the highway - my 8 foot wide camper, a van, and a bicycle! Now, I ask the potential bicycler of the Baja highway, are you really willing to place yourself in such a situation? Is the Baja ride worth the risk to yourself, and to others you don't know? If there had been an accident, I believe that I would have personally survived. However, the bicycler and the occupants of the van were in a more uncertain situation.

Here is what happened. I was heading north and the bicycler was heading south, as was the van (followed by two other cars). As I approached the bicycler, I eased off and watched the situation. The van appeared to be slowing as should be the case. However, just when I had reached the bicycler, the van came up behind the bicycler and made a sudden swerve around. I think the van was probably going faster than first appeared to be the case, and, perhaps, felt pressured by the cars behind. I probably already had the outer dual wheel over the edge of the pavement, and could not move over any further, although I did not have the time to react even if there had been room. The passing occurred with less than inches to spare in my estimation.

Right, wrong? If deaths had occurred, the question of right and wrong would have been quite irrelevant for those whose lives had come to an end.

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Contents Page: Copyright 1999 Fred T. Metcalf