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Responsible biking: We are not exempt from the traffic rules!

Submitted by gwolf on Tue, 02/15/2011 - 21:03

As you know, I very often advocate using the bycicle as the main means of transportation in Mexico City. The city is very apt for biking through it, and contrary to the fears of mostly everybody, the city is neither aggressive nor as dangerous as people say.

However, I have seen cyclists which seem to be looking for the best ways to be hit by a car, or to hit a pedestrian.

Yesterday, I read this note in La Jornada: The local Environment Secretary calls cyclists to respect vial regulations.

Many cyclists assume they are a special case of pedestrians, and zig-zag as they please between the road and the walkway, or just stay in the walkway. That is dangerous, both to pedestrians and to themselves. You might find children, elderly or motion-challenged people on your way. Also, not only will pedestrians only expect other people in the walkway, moving at their pace or slightly more, but cars will also not expect somebody moving at 10-20Km/h. A car driver pulling out of his garage, or crossing a street, will not have enough warning when he sees you, and you are very likely to end up in an accident.

Since ~5 years ago, Mexico City is growing a grid of Metrobús and confined trolebús cero emisiones (trolleybus) lanes. Many cyclists use those lanes — That is VERY dangerous. Public transport vehicles are large, have a lot of inertia, and will take longer to react to finding you ahead of them. Besides, they can go way faster than a regular bike (~60Km/h for metrobús, ~40Km/h for trolebús), and have to stop every couple of blocks. So, you will be uncomfortable if trailing them, and you will be a liability to ~100 people if you go ahead of them. Besides, it is illegal to drive in the confined lanes if you are not a public, semimassive transport vehicle!

Surprisingly many people have argued they prefer riding their bicycles against the traffic — I think they prefer staring at Death into its blue, glowing eyes (or into its long, thin whiskers)... By far, most cars that hit a bicycle do so from the side, when crossing a road. And if you arrive at a crossing from the wrong way, the way a driver does not expect you, don't expect the driver to be aware of you. Also, in the much less likely event of a car running into you, would it be better to be hit at 80Km/h (60Km/h of the car plus 20Km/h of your own speed on a full frontal crash), or at 40Km/h (substracting instead of adding)? Yes, some people say that looking at the car will allow you to maneuver – How far in advance would you know a car coming from the front will hit you? One second? That's 22 meters at 80Km/h (again, if you realize the 60Km/h car is heading straight to you, at 20Km/h). Too short notice for you to do anything — Any maneuver will most likely end in an accident. And the driver would not be so much to blame, as he would not be anticipating you riding against the traffic.

Make sure you get seen. By night, always use proper lights (red on the back, white on the front, and reflective material to the sides). Day or night, wear bright, reflective clothes (or over-clothes material). Act in a predictable fashion. Remember you are riding a vehicle and are subject to the same rules any driver is — A cyclist is not exempt from driving correctly! Do not jump red lights. Never ride on the walkway. Do your best to enjoy the ride.

And ride. Yes, ride, take the streets, enjoy the streets. But don't attempt to drive the traffic out of it — The streets belong to us all, and we can all share them.

PS — I also saw this note in the same paper: Sunday Rides in "Campo Militar Número Uno". The main military field was open as a park this weekend! I have to make sure it is regularly open — I am definitively going there!

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Biking without a set destination: Basílica de Guadalupe

Submitted by gwolf on Mon, 10/25/2010 - 00:23

Sunday. A good day to take some time to myself, and get some much needed excercise. And the pseudo-meditation that comes with it: That's one of the factors I love the most about cycling. It's possibly my favorite way of just idling, of allowing for the time to pass without me noticing, just watching the movie of life, watching the world go around me with very little effort. I just love cycling.

I have posted here several mentions of the Ciclotón: Every month, the last Sunday, our city government closes a ~32Km circuit to make it for cycling (and skating, and walking, and jogging, and other human-powered locomotion) use. Whenever I am in the city and have the possibility, I do the Ciclotón. Two months ago, I even did it twice in a row, for a total of almost 70Km.

But this Sunday was not the last Sunday of the month! So, why am I writing this? Well, because when I left home today at ~10AM, I thought it was. Only when I reached Circuito Interior and had a «this is full of cars» moment, I remembered October has 31 days. And next Sunday I'll very probably be in Oaxaca city (for the Hackmitin 04h4ck4 2010). And I didn't want to miss the fun of a nice Sunday ride!

I don't care if streets are closed just for bikes — I am used to riding in traffic. Of course, this meant I would not take the central lanes in Circuito Interior on the way back, taking the ~10 bridges (which are quite tiring, to be honest!). It also meant I was free to make my own route. So, I thought, a nice small ~20-30Km ride will do. I'll just get to Eje 2 Sur or so, and back by another route (i.e. Plutarco E. Calles or so).

But as I got closer to Reforma, I realized that every Sunday (independent of a Ciclotón), Reforma is closed for the "Paseos Dominicales" - Shorter than a Ciclotón, but still a nice way to share the streets with other cyclists. So I headed for Reforma.

Part of Reforma (from the Ángel roundabout westward) was closed due to a –precisely– cyclist race. But from there eastwards we had the street for us. Good, lets head downtown.

The surprise came when I saw that it was not only towards downtown, but passing Av. Juárez, Reforma continued to be closed just for cyclist use northwards. Great! Lets see how far does it go. The first surprise there: A couple of days ago, it was the "Noche de los Alebrijes". The alebrijes are a beautiful and very elaborated Mexican typical handicraft, depicting psychodelic dragons or dragonic representations of animals. Of course, alebrijes are usually ~30cm long... But here we had huge ones! And verrrry elaborated! How much so? You tell me.

And as I started off... A nice thing about cycling is that you get to meditate. My body continued cycling, taking care not to run over the kids that are not so proficient, stoping at each red light... At some point, my mind entered back the body, and I realized we were passing by Tlatelolco (ok, to be honest, the picture was taken when crossing southwards, on my way back), about to cross Circuito Interior on the North, in that symbolically very strange place where Paseo de la Reforma (a long, beautiful avenue named after the war that marked the complete separation between church and Mexican state, in 1860) becomes two streets... Calzada de los Misterios and Calzada de Guadalupe. And, yes, it is among the greatest peregrination routes in the world. On December 12, the Holiday of the Guadalupe Virgin, up to 7 million people go visit her temple.

And also around here, when my mind was busy inside my body, I noticed a pair from the Un paseo a ciegas (roughly translated, a blind ride) program was riding just by me. I knew about this program, but had never seen them before – So I took the opportunity to get to know this program. Basically: Two people ride a tandem bike. The one in front, as always, drives and steers. The one in the back is a blind person, who gets the amazing sensation of freedom and enjoyment that only a bike gives you. Un paseo a ciegas is held every Sunday at 9AM except for the last Sunday every month. And I definitively want to be part of it! They told me the program has been adopted as well in Puebla, and if I recall correctly, it will soon be started in Querétaro and Guadalajara.

Anyway, by then I realized the ride was probably going to reach the Basílica, a very impressive church I had just visited for the first time ever a couple of weeks ago. And yes — we went all the way up Guadalupe until the place where the street gets impossible to bike on, then left along a small street, and back to the South by Misterios. Then, all the way along Reforma again, saying goodbye to Cuitlahuac, José de San Martín, Simón Bolívar, El Caballito, Cristobal Colón, Cuauhtemoc, La Palmera, El Ángel... And back home. Of course, not without the sight of some bizarre signs we enjoy so much to find, point at and laugh.

Have I ever told you, my nameless reader, that I love this city? I love getting surprised with so many great things. I love the distances I can safely ride on my bike without ever being far from a bike repair shop (which are only needed when they are far away). I love being surrounded by people breathing their freedom to take the streets. I love the safety of our wide, long streets (and no, I'm not joking here – Mexico City is among the safest places for cyclists I have been to). I love its weather, that allows me to go out and enjoy the street at any time of year. And I love biking in it, one of the best ways to get to know so many bits of the city I would have never ventured into otherwise.

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Cycling, cycling everywhere!

Submitted by gwolf on Wed, 09/01/2010 - 17:52

I have been wanting to post for several days already, at least since this last Sunday. I have repeatedly bragged about taking part in the Ciclotón: The last Sunday every month, the city's government closes to automotive transit a ~33Km circuit, for cyclists to enjoy. And by cyclists, I mean people from all expertise ranges — Well, the very elite bikers will not take part of such a massive thing, but there are people pedalling a couple of blocks, people taking their small kids to drive a bit, and I recognized an amazingly large proportion of people doing the whole route.

Well, this last Sunday one lap was not enough for me — I did two laps, ~65Km.

(oh, and just for keeping the complaint current: After all, SportsTracker did release a version of thier software for the N95... But it requires Flash for using the webpage at all. I have several pointers at other applications... but am time-starved right now to start reviewing :-/ )

Anyway, I decided to do this double ciclotón in order to train for next week. If you are anywhere near Mexico City, you are invited - this is meant to be a large group ride, and looks very fun!

Doble Maratón Ciclista Urbano del Bicentenario

We are two weeks away from the 200 year conmemoration of the beginning of the Independence War in Mexico. A group of cyclists came up with the idea to organize a Double Marathon to celebrate! 84Km of biking in Mexico City:

For some reason, the distance numbers in that map were made... in miles :-P Anyway, the planned route will be:

  1. Jardin de los periodistas ilustres (Delegación Venustiano Carranza)
  2. Aeropuerto Internacional de la Ciudad de México
  3. Circuito Bicentenario ( antes circuito interior )
  4. Monumento a La Raza - Hospital La Raza
  5. Río San Joaquin
  6. Viaducto Bicentenario ( carril confinado sin interrumpir la circulacion )
  7. Torres de Satélite 50 aniversario
  8. Presidencia municipal de Tlalnepantla
  9. Presidencia municipal de Naucalpan
  10. Anillo Periferico Sur
  11. Secretaría de la Defensa
  12. Bosque de Chapultepec 1ª y 2ª sección
  13. Segundo Piso del Distrito Federal
  14. Ciudad Universitaria patrimonio cultural de la humanidad
  15. Insurgentes Sur
  16. Miguel Ángel de Quevedo
  17. Calzada de Tlapan
  18. Zócalo centro historico del distrito federal
  19. Calle 16 de septiembre fin del recorrido

It looks very fun. Besides, although it is not that flat, it is one of the flattest long distance routes you will ever have. The toughest part will be IMO the Northern part of Circuito Bicentenario and possibly some bits of Periférico towards Naucalpan. Then, a long flat stretch, with one long but not steep way up in Segundo Piso (near Las Flores), and a little stretch towards Ciudad Universitaria. Other than that, it looks very doable if you are in a moderately decent condition. And taking part in such a thing is very very worthy!

As a final note... This same Sunday, it has been somewhat publicized the first Día Nacional de la Bicicleta (Bycicling National Day) will be held all over the country, kickstarting the National Cycling Crusade. Sounds nice, right? Even impressive? Yeah, but... If you look at the published information (in the page I just linked), you will see several cities are opening cyclist circuits. For one day only, which means, it does not build awareness among the population on how easy, how convenient and how fun it is to use the bicycle as means of transportation. And not only that — The cyclist routes clearly make a point that cycling is a good way, at most, to have fun... But not a general habit we should all embrace. Lets see, as an example, the distances offered (only for the cities quoting route length):

  • Guerrero: Chilpancingo, 2Km; Chilapa de Álvarez, 4.5Km
  • Sinaloa: Culiacán, 4.7Km
  • Nuevo León:Monterrey, 1.9Km
  • Querétaro: Querétaro, 3.2Km
  • Sonora: Nacozari, 1.5Km; Naco, 1.5Km; Huasbas, 1Km; Granados, 1Km; Imuris, 1.5Km; Huatabampo, 1.5Km; Yecora, 1.5Km; Sahuaripa, 1Km; Caborca, 2Km; Navojoa, 3Km; Santa Ana: 2Km; San Luis Río Colorado: 2Km; Cd. Obregón: 3Km; Hermosillo: 3Km; Nogales: 4Km; Magdalena: 3Km; Guaymas: 4Km; Empalme: 2Km
  • Morelos: Cuernavaca: 2Km

...And so it goes. As you can see, several very important cities (i.e. Monterrey, Chilpancingo, Cuernavaca) put only a 2km route. 2Km by bike is... Nothing. 2Km is done at a leisurely pace in less than 15 minutes (I often sustain 20Km/h, which would mean 2Km in 6 minutes). And, in this short sample (the linked page has the information for several other states, but the pattern holds), most states are only making this in the largest city or two, completely forgetting the bulk of their territories. In my opinion, this "effort" was done backwardsly, and ends up delivering the exact opposite message to what should be done.

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World Naked Bike Ride 2010 — Mexico

Submitted by gwolf on Sun, 06/13/2010 - 15:15

For the second time (First time was in 2008; I didn't join in 2009 as I travelled to Nicaragua on that date), I took part of the World Naked Bike Ride. The WNBR is a global effort, where people in ~150 cities all over the world go cycling nude on the streets of our towns, with varied demands, including:

  • Safe conditions for cyclists (mainly aimed at car drivers, at the society at large, but also requesting proper infrastructure measures from our respective governments)
  • Raising the consciousness that every individual has a bit of power to free us all from oil-produced pollution
  • Tolerance, acceptance of people who are not exactly like us
  • Lower the ecologic impact of humans against the world

I love my bike!

One of the things I most like about WNBR is its diversity. Not everybody goes for the same reasons. As people who read me often will know, I took part because I believe (and act accordingly!) that the bicycle is the best, most efficient vehicle in –by far– most of the situations we face day to day, but we need to raise awareness in everybody that the bicycle is just one more vehicle: On one side, we have the right to safely ride on the streets, like any other vehicle. On the other side, we must be responsible, safe drivers, just as we want car drivers to be.

Ok, and I will recognize it before anybody complains that I sound too idealistic: I took part of the WNBR because it is _tons_ of fun. This year, we were between 300 and 500 people (depending on whom you ask). Compared to 2008, I felt less tension, more integration, more respect within the group. Of course, it is only natural in the society I live in that most of the participants were men, but the proportion of women really tends to even out. Also, many more people joined fully or partially in the nude (as nudity is not required, it is just an invitation). There was a great display of creativity, people painted with all kinds of interesting phrases and designs, some really beautiful.

Oh, one more point, important to me: This is one of the best ways to show that we bikers are not athletes or anything like that. We were people ranging from very thin to quite fat, from very young to quite old. And that is even more striking when we show our whole equipment. If we can all bike around... So can you!

Some links, with obvious nudity warnings in case you are offended by looking at innocent butts and similar stuff:

As for the sad, stupid note: 19 cyclists were placed under arrest in Morelia, Michoacán because of faltas a la moral (trasgressions against morality), an ill-defined and often abused concept.

Also, by far, most of the comments I have read from people on the media, as well a most questions we had by reporters before or after the ride were either why are you going nude‽ (because that's the only way I'll get your attention!) or But many people were not nude! (nudity is not a requirement but only an option.

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One more fatal accident in my usual environment

Submitted by gwolf on Tue, 05/25/2010 - 00:34

I was about to close down a good day of hard work, a heavy but useful day... I had even decided to take some time off to listen to some good music, and was heading off to bed on a good mood...

Until I decided to read my contacts' latest rants. And I found very sad news - again.

A ten year old kid was killed while cycling in Calle Nezahualpilli, Colonia Ajusco.

I happen to know quite well that precise area - I lived very close to that street for some months in 2008. I eat in a small restaurant (what we call either a cocina económica, comida corrida or fondita) on that street. One of my usual bycicle workshops is also on that street - In fact, I wanted to go today, as both of my bikes' rear tires are flat, but had no time to make it.

Anyway... Colonia Ajusco and Colonia Santo Domingo ("colonia" is basically... a neighbourhood in es_MX) are two very popular, economically depressed areas, just North-East of the University. Probably hundreds or thousands of students live in rented rooms in the area, as UNAM with its 300,000 students does not have any dorms (due to political reasons leading all the way back to the 1960s).

Santo Domingo and Ajusco are also the part where Mexico City's main valley finishes. The hills begin, not too abruptly (we have a ~150m difference in the ~2Km spanned by both colonias). And... When I lived there, I was amazed at the amount of people moving by bike. The streets are too slow for motorized transit to properly flow, and it's often annoying to have to cross the region. It is mostly safe for cyclists.

Anyway, this kid was having a good time on the street, and was killed by a microbus driver fighting his fellow over more clients. The driver, yes, was caught (by his passengers and other bystanders, according to the note), and did not run away as they often do in cases such as this one. Still, the kid died almost instantly, so catching the driver serves very little consolation.

This Friday we will have BiciUNAMonos second monthly meeting. It is too soon, and I don't think we will end up going there. But I do feel this accident falls squarely inside UNAM user's territory. We cannot ignore it just because it happened outside our University's gates.

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5000 Km

Submitted by gwolf on Thu, 05/06/2010 - 07:34

In an amazing but meaningless feat of synchronicity, Toxicore's post led me to check how much distance have I done while excercising – I have mainly done this cycling, although some running also comes into play. Turns out I was just about to break the same mark he did. From my Nokia Sportstracker records:

Before breaking the 5000 Km mark, yesterday at noon:
Yesterday excercise records, at noon

After breaking the 5000 Km mark, yesterday at night:
Yesterday excercise records, at night

So, following Bubulle's style... If I have done 5000 Km since January 2008, when do you think I should reach 5500? 6000? 7000? Infinity and beyond?

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Regarding the fatal cycling accident in Ciudad Universitaria

Submitted by gwolf on Tue, 04/13/2010 - 17:41

My blog is written in English, even though I sometimes post content relevant locally. Anyway, I want this to be as widely known as possible. We are about to launch a website/community for my University's cyclists, BiciUNAMonos. Please note the site I'm linking is still very preliminary in several ways. But that's the least relevant for now.

I am translating here a message written by fellow cyclist (and researcher in the Institute of Astronomy of my University) Sergio Mendoza.

Regarding the fatal cycling accident in Ciudad Universitaria

Yesterday night I got home, and was quite surprised to open my mailbox and find a considerable amount of messages under the subject Urgent: Fallen cyclist! I immediately noticed something was very wrong, and was surprised they were contacting me. When I decided to read the first such message, I realized what happened: Dr. Jorge Villanueva was run over by the Puma [internal University service] bus number 14, route 2, which was being driven over the speed limit. This happened last Sunday, April 11. On Sundays, all of Ciudad Universitaria becomes a cycling and running circuit.

I was immediately brought back to the moment that, when I was leaving my office in the Astronomy Institute and heading towards Cerro del Agua avenue, a lady driving over the speed limit on the circuit that comes from Metro Universidad threw her car at me. I saw her at a few centimeters distance from her windshield... To the day I don't know how I pulled my bike away, as I was going to hit the windshield with my shoulder. Everything happened in slow motion, I just heard several cars honking at this imprudent lady. I didn't have a scratch, but got excessively close to getting a strong hit, and with the adrenaline raging I gave a kind caress with my closed fist to her brand new car. I had to free my adrenaline somehow... My legs were trembling when I tried to pedal. I told her, «lady, I am excessively visible in my bike, why did you do this?», she didn't answer, she just looked despectively at me.

This kind of accidents happen every day in the University and its main entries. Precisely today, a University professor threw his car at me entering the University via Cerro del Agua. When I reached him and confronted him, he told me –completely sure of his words– that I was invading the lane with my bike, and that it was my fault. Anybody would have thought a car-driving university professor is capable of reading the Metropolitant Transit Regulations that clearly states on its 1st article: The priority for using the public space, for the different transport modes will be according to the following priorization: I. Pedestrians; II. Cyclists; III. Users and providers of massive, collective or individual public transport service; IV. users of particular automotor transport; and V. users and providers of freight transport.

We are now organizing to put up the first ghost bike in Ciudad Universitaria. This happens few days before the formal inauguration of BiciUNAMonos, the universitary association of urban cyclists; we will do this remembering our university mate.

I see every day more people in the University hitting their bike pedals to get to their faculties, centers and research institutes, but what is striking is the lack of University infrastructure. The few cycleways we have are built to use a bycicle system that is open only until 16:00. It is good, but it is in no way useful for those of us who use the bike every day and at every hour, no matter the weather. The main problem lies at the communication points, when cyclists arrive from outside Ciudad Universitaria and have to take the regular circuits to reach the cycleways. The Transit Regulation, in the 1st article I quoted above, defines in an excellent way the priorities that must exist to allow human movility. In this regard we have to mention that:

  1. The pedestrians must be enormously protected with walkways and semaphores to allow them to safely walk. In Ciudad Unviersitaria there are many places that don't even have a walkway or semaphores, and drivers do not respect the pedestrian's preference. Also, now in the central area of Ciudad Universitaria we have the Pumabus system on a confined lane, providing an excellent service to the pedestrians to move within the campus.
  2. The cyclist comes next in this priorization, but there is nothing obvious for him. There are a couple of cyclist ways, usually invaded by pedestrians, and explicitly made to use the Bicipuma system. Cyclists need their own lane for circulation in the Universitary circuit; pedestrians have walkways, Pumabús has its confined lanes, but the cyclists still lack it. The third lane that remains is precisely for the IV and V entries in the Metropolitan Transport Regulations. They can perfectly share the remaining lane in the campus.

The last thing I wanted was to formally announce BiciUNAMonos reminding a fallen cyclist and dedicating a ghost bycicle to his memory in Ciudad Universtiaria, but we don't have a choice. We have to make it very clear to the University community that the bicycle is the best transport system, and that the drivers' imprudence inside Ciudad Universitaria must be strongly punished.

Sergio Mendoza

Coincidentally, today I also had a freightening experience. Taking one of my usual routes to work, going up from the sporting area in the Western half of the campus (just before where the map lists the highest point in my ride), just by Investigaciones Biomédicas, I heard a car hitting the breaks behind me and passing me (on my right side) quite narrowly. I was, as always, driving towards the center of the lane, to be able to respond to unforseen events (as this one, precisely). The Universitary authorities had the great(?) idea of placing round, small bumps before the Pumabus stations to avoid drivers parking in front of them. I have seen a strong accident caused by them, and was close to suffering one myself some months ago. I know that just after Biomédicas there are some such bumps, so I never ride too much to the right – I don't know what was on this driver's head. Ciudad Universitaria has a 40 Km/h speed limit. Yes, it might seem too low - Circuits are wide and well planned. But there is a lot of cyclist and pedestrian transit, at all times, and I must recognize such a limit is well in place.

I often take a longer route to my Institute, bordering the University along Av. Delfín Madrigal. People tell me I'm crazy, as this is an avenue that's often taken at high speed - Usually, cars pass me by between 60 and 80 Km/h. However, I even feel safer going that way than going inside the University. Contrary to the popular belief, Universitary people do not have better driving habits than the bulk of the population. And it's often much easier to drive along a way where the traffic –even if it goes at three times my speed– runs only in one direction, unlike the swarming of people going in every possible direction inside the main campus.

Anyway, last Sunday we lost a University professor, we lost a cyclist. Some people lost a friend, a family member. We have to make this case well known, we have to speak with the authorities so they see the Bicipuma system is good, but not enough. Cycling is the only way to go for a city as complex as ours. A much needed first step is to allow proper vial connections linking the University and the many avenues that surround it. Another one is to make a campaign so the cyclists are not seen –as Sergio regards– as intruders in the streets — The street belongs to us all. Cyclists should never drive on walkways or among pedestrians. Drivers need to learn to share the streets with us.

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100 years of «policletos»

Submitted by gwolf on Mon, 01/18/2010 - 11:53

Among the many columns and lesser sections of my favorite national newspaper I enjoy reading the Centenaria column — Notes published one hundred years ago in Mexico City local newspapers.

A couple of decades ago, we started having policletos on the streets — "Policías bicicletos". Cops on bikes. I don't know if we had policletos as a continuous presence before that, but I do remember it being somewhat controversial in the late 1980s or early 1990s. Anyway, this snippet (and sadly I cannot capture the 1910 writing style in English) was a joy to read:

January 18, 1910

Good results of using bicycles for surveillance

As we have come to know, the service the first-class policemen are doing on bike, mainly during night time, has yielded great results, as the street policemen often fell asleep and woke up upon hearing a horse approaching, which does not happen anymore because the first-class policemen make much quicker rounds, and before the street policemen even think of it, their superior is standing in front of them.

It also seems that robberies, so frequent during the nights, have ceased because the burglars, hastily breaking the locks, are caught by the bike-riding policemen, given the machines barely make any noise, and besides, they cannot run away because they are chased with no effort.

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The world is not enough

Submitted by gwolf on Thu, 07/23/2009 - 14:06

As many of you are aware, I am the owner of the universe. Let me correct, the proud owner of the universe. This little bugger has got me a good time in Nicaragua and, although it was a bit sick during the first couple of days, I do expect to use it several times in Cáceres. It is always good to have a bike - a reason _and_ a way to move, faster than walking, getting good views and, basically, drawing bystanders' attention.

But today, thanks to Axel, a permanent impression has entered my mind.

I rode a Brompton. Shortly, for less than a kilometer... But, WOW. And I do mean it. <blink>W-O-W</blink>.

One day, when I grow up, I will get my own Brompton. And the Universe will truly be mine.

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Liliana Castillo, in memoriam

Submitted by gwolf on Mon, 06/08/2009 - 20:01

Three weeks ago, 23 year old Liliana Castillo, student of the Escuela Nacional de Artes Plásticas at UNAM was killed while driving her bycicle, at the Avenida Universidad and Real de Mayorazgo corner, in Mexico City, less than 3Km north from my house (and from the University). I have crossed that spot several times, also driving my bike. It is not a corner where you would expect a careless, speeding driver coming out of nowhere and killing a girl, a student, an artist.

I am reproducing this letter, that is being passed around in the University. I will surely be there, as many other cyclists. We need to make ourselves visible, to make drivers aware they are not the sole owners of the streets. There is enough place for all of us. We all deserve freedom of movement.

Estimados miembros de la comunidad universitaria,

Con gran tristeza les informo que nuestra compañera estudiante Liliana Castillo, de la Escuela Nacional de Artes Plásticas y de la Facultad de Filosofía murió arrollada mientras circulaba en su bicicleta el día 15 de mayo, en Avenida Universidad esquina con Mayorazgo de la Higuera en la colonia Xoco, delegación Benito Juárez.

Por tal motivo los invitamos a que nos unamos a la marcha ciclista que se llevará acabo en su memoria este miércoles 10 de junio a las 21h en el estacionamiento de la Facultad de Filosofía y Letras en Ciudad Universitaria. El contingente saldrá a las 21h en punto con ruta Avenida Universidad hasta el lugar de los hechos. Ahí dejaremos veladoras y flores en memoria a nuestra compañera en conjunto con la organización bicitekas ( quienes saldrán a su vez a la misma hora desde el Ángel de la Independencia. El contingente universitario regresará a la Facultad de Filosofía aproximadamente a las 23.30h.

Las personas que no puedan acompañarnos en bicicleta, son mas que bienvenidas para llegar al punto de reunión que se encuentra a una calle al norte del Metro Coyoacan sobre avenida Universidad.

Para mayor información sobre lo ocurrido y lo cuestionable del manejo legal del accidente, pero sobre todo para difundir su legado artístico, visiten la página:


PD No olvides llevar una veladora y una flor para dejar en el lugar del accidente.

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Some prefer marathoning... I prefer going to my old workplace

Submitted by gwolf on Fri, 04/24/2009 - 14:21

I was invited to talk about Free Software at yesterday's FLISOL. Yesterday? Aren't FLISOLs organized on Saturday? Well, not this one, for various reasons which I won't quote here. And no, I am not a supporter of the installfests idea, but I went gladly to talk about what is Free Software all about - The philosophy behind Free Software. Besides, the talk was at FES Iztacala, where I worked for four happy years, 1999-2003. I have not been often to Iztacala since 2003 (probably I have visited only three or four times), partly because of the distance (~25Km from home in a straight line, but the city's Northern part is quite poorly communicated). The last time I was there, last October, I went by bike, just to test my endurance and... because I could.

Yesterday, I also did, not to be outdone by my fellow Debianers Christian and Dirk. Think they are so cool because they can run for 43Km? Well, I had my 55Km yesterday, and I was not even in a competition! (yes, yes, running and biking is not the same. So sue me. I just didn't want to stand still and let them walk away with all of the fun!) I took slightly different routes (my route to get there on Nokia Sportstracker and OpenStreetMap trace, my route back on Nokia Sportstracker and OpenStreetMap trace), crossing diagonally Azcapotzalco, a region of the city (delegación) I hardly know... The Sourthern of it seems like a continuation of Tacuba to the North, small and not-very-well-communicated prior villages engulfed by our hungry, huge city. The Northern half is a mostly industrial area, with very sparse population, lots of trucks, and streets that are not in the best shape. You can end up feeling lonely in those regions, and I am glad not to have crossed back by night.

And the trip back was interesting as well... Mexico City is home to many more bikers you would expect given its size, and it is very common to find other people doing nice long stretches. In this case, I started cycling quite close to another guy in a white bike more or less when I got to Calzada Camarones. Possibly we had passed each other over and over until after Tlatelolco, arriving to Guerrero, where I approached him at a stoplight:
— Hi! Where to?
­— Near Vocacional 7, Iztapalapa!
— Nice! I'm just going to Copilco

Every now and then we crossed each other... Turns out he does this ~30Km commute daily between Iztapalapa and Azcapotzalco. Quite admirable, to be honest. I also crossed my road with Sergio Mendoza, fellow Debianer (and co-administrator of our Mexican mirror) around Centro Médico (about 7Km north from my destination), whom I had only seen before around the University. Nice surprise. And yes, getting to know the city by bike is the best way to go!

Back to the conference... my first thought when I was invited was to present ¿Qué es el Software Libre?, a talk I have given over and over since... 2002 (although, yes, with updates). I must say it's one of the best structured talks I have prepared and has almost always been very successful - But give the same talk based on the same script over and over (AFAICT, around 20 times), and you will be fed up with it. And yes, yesterday I didn't take my laptop along, and didn't put my presentation on a USB stick - I took a pen and some paper, and during the presentation prior to mine, wrote some points to go over. And yes, it was a refreshing change. The talk was as successful as expected, and it's much more refreshing to talk about the same topics bot on a different way, and without being constrained to a predefined script. I know that organizing formally your ideas makes sure you don't miss out important points and that the audience is sometimes encouraged to pay attention by having some bullet points to look at - But on the other hand, it is much easier to follow your audience's interest if you are not bound by the script. And the few times I've spoken that way, it has felt refreshing and nice.

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4ª Rodada Nacional Tri-Estatal México-Pachuca

Submitted by gwolf on Mon, 11/10/2008 - 12:48
4ª Rodada Nacional Tri-Estatal México-Pachuca

Yesterday I took part of the fourth inter-state bike ride, requesting the construction of proper and safe cycling ways. Tens of Mexican bike-rider organizations were part of the organization, althought the effort is basically grouped under the Ciclopistas y Ciclovías Interestatales project - For further details on the route we took, you can look at the México-Pachuca road map, although it was not followed literally.
I am very happy I decided to take part of this - I went with Adrián, but after the first rest/grouping we lost track of each other, and decided the best would be for each to go at his own pace. He managed to do the 95Km ride, I decided to stop at about 85 (I set my target to the first houses of Pachuca, so I could say I arrived ;-) ) and took a ride from the barredoras that were trailing us. Still, 85Km in about six hours (including the two rests) are well over what I expected to endure. And although the conditions were not ideal (i.e. there was some re-pavement jobs in a large portion between Tizayuca and Pachuca, which led to poor road conditions in some areas, and the dry, horrid smell of tar in others; we cycled along the vehicles in the very busy highway, so we didn't exactly get a dose of clean air), it was great. And I thought each of my muscles would hurt like hell today, but no, they are just feeling lazy ;-)
The GPS tracking on Nokia SportsTracker, The GPS tracking on OpenStreetMap

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How (and how not) to create cyclist awareness

Submitted by gwolf on Fri, 10/31/2008 - 17:46

Michael blogs about Critical Mass.
What is Critical Mass in case you are too lazy to go to Michael's or to the Wikipedia? A cyclist-awareness movement, showing how bikers are safer (i.e. more visible) when there are more of them. The (dis)organizational nature of this movement (at least according to Wikipedia's information) seems quite fun and interesting.
However, I have to oppose what Michael says is a strong point of CM in Austria - At least, given my country's culture.
People who don't bike often say we have the least bike-aware culture, and that this city must be like hell to cyclists. It is not - Mexicans tend to believe this is the worst place possible on many accounts, and I'm happy to prove the contrary. I do feel that bringing people out to the streets, as our local government's Muévete en bici program pushes, is completely right: It shows people how fast they can move in real streets in the city, taking away the fear of being run over by a bus, and people will gradually understand we can all excercise the right to use the streets without polluting, and gives us a better idea on how to behave with traffic (even if the traffic is made of fellow bikers) around us. I know this program works - At least, because it worked on me. Whenever possible, I go everywhere in this (not small or friendly by any measure) city by bike.
Anyway - What criticism do I have for Michael's post? That he states they:

Bicycling ludicrously slowly for a good hour, we managed to claim some fairly busy streets while many people tried to get home by car.

IMHO, what we should be doing is to demand the drivers to respect us, not to make them want to run us over. They should not be driven into hating bikers because of the chaos they generate - It is terrible to sit in a car for two hours when you usually take 30 minutes. There is simply no justification for that.
When I took part of the World Naked Bike Ride, some people wanted to take all four lanes of Reforma. Fortunately, reason prevailed, and we took only the lane we were assigned. And we should keep that in mind! Whenever possible, we should protest and make ourselves heard, but without interfering, without damaging, other people's lives!
Oh, by the way: If anybody in Mexico wants to have some nice hours of healthy fun: I am still pondering whether to join, as it is a huge effort, but I am very inclined to do so. Next week, November 9, we will go by bike from Mexico City's Zócalo to Pachuca. We face 95Km and close to four hours. The road to Pachuca is basically flat, and going in a large group is a great experience. Hope to see you there!

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Free Software and the Democratic Construction of the Society

Submitted by gwolf on Fri, 10/24/2008 - 23:52

Last Wednesday I went for the first time in many years to FES Iztacala, the UNAM faculty where I worked for four years (1999-2003) and where I have most learnt and advanced in my career so far. I have a very special spot in my heart for Iztacala :-)
But it was not just a nostalgy drive - In no small part, I had not visited Iztacala -despite several invitations- because... It is really far away, in Tlalnepantla, Northern Mexico City (while I live in the South, just by UNAM). It takes me approximately 1.5 hours to get there via public transportation, and I would not venture less than 1 hour travel time by car. So... Having nothing to lose, I decided to go by bike - you can look at my route to get there (OpenStreetMap, SportsTracker) and safely back home (OpenStreetMap, SportsTracker). Some people I have talked with think it was a crazy thing to do - No, I don't feel that, by a long shot. A 26Km ride in slightly under two hours, and back. People insist on thinking that biking in such a large and chaotic city as Mexico is unsafe, dangerous, suicidal... I deeply disagree. Cycling is fun and got me to my destination in almost the same time I would have made by bus. And no, I would not buy four liters of gasoline just to cross my city.
Anyway, I am also happy about the reason that actually got me to go to Iztacala - I submitted a talk+paper I prepared together with Alejandro Miranda to Congreso Internacional Software Libre y Democratización del Conocimiento organized by Universidad Politécnica Salesiana in Quito, Ecuador. This conference is quite different to those I am used to, as it is quite more formal and academic; it is mainly targetted at social scientists working on understanding our movement. We prepared a talk called Software Libre y la Construcción Democrática de la Sociedad - which was accepted, to my amazement.
Neither Alejandro nor I were unable to travel to Ecuador to give the talk, so we arranged to present it via a videoconference call - Which was based on Iztacala. A nice session, although quite different to what I am used to. Our presentation was on a panel setting, under the global Ethical and political dimensions in the Free Software culture, with 20 minutes to present the topic (I am used to preparing one- or two-hour talks), and it was frankly rushed... We "met" with some friends (or were able at least to greet them shortly after the talk) who attended live to the conference, and... Well, all in all, it was one of those good, interesting experiences I would surely repeat. And besides, I have several things pending to show off about my current work to my Iztacalan fellows ;-)

Freedom itches

Submitted by gwolf on Fri, 06/13/2008 - 20:43

In this Free Software movement we have many mottos - One of which, describing what motivates us to work writing code, is scratch where it itches.
Of course, I could not keep it to myself - Almost a week ago, I took part of the World Naked Bike Ride. What I didn't tell you... Is that it became obvious I cannot reach most of by back - And it's because I'm mostly careless. When the WNBR started, it was still quite cloudy, even starting to rain... so I was mostly careless.
If you opened the newspaper PDF I attached to my previous post, you'll surely remember (not an easy sight to get out of your head, I guess) I had painted on my back "Vehículo libre de emisiones" - Emissions-free vehicle (and yes, it's strictly true: My bike is zero emissions. The animal riding it might not be... But that's a different story). Add incomplete sunblock to the equation, and...

Were it not for the poor lighting conditions under which I took the photo, you'd clearly appreciate the words "libre de" on my back.
And... Well, one week later, my freedom itches.

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