Cycling

Sandro Cohen: The cyclist's zen

Submitted by gwolf on Tue, 07/23/2013 - 14:41

For all Spanish-speakers that read my blog, specially for the cyclists among you, and most specially for those that dwell in Mexico City's streets: I was recently pointed to a project started inside the Faceboook labrynth by Sandro Cohen, writer and academic: El zen del ciclista urbano.

I met Sandro around twenty years ago. He writes in a very good, simple style. What I didn't know until now is that he has also become an urban cyclism promotor, just as me and many of my friends. In this page he started, he posts snippets on the topic of being an urban cyclist: As of today, he has 44 meditations, each of them a joy to read — And very instructive as well.

Thanks, Sandro, for the great resource!

[update] I always find it... almost funny to read comments by so many people saying they'd rather have a lobotomy than to cycle in Mexico City. Hey! Mexico City is among the best places for cycling! Yes, we have to keep our eyes open and our instincts awake, but... Most of the city's area is flat. Many avenues have wide lanes and span a long distance. And yes, although there are some careless or aggressive drivers, after six years with the joy between my legs I can just say that... things are not as bad as you might imagine. I have very few (thankfully!) bad experiences, and so, so many good ones!

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Cycling: Atzcapozalco's cycle path; @p00k4 sends me rail-riding!

Submitted by gwolf on Wed, 10/17/2012 - 18:16

Yesterday I went to FES Iztacala, the faculty where I worked between 1999 and 2003. It's nice to go visit some good friends (even if to talk for work issues). It is somewhat far from my usual roaming area (~25Km straight to the North), so I cannot do it as often as I'd like. But anyway - I had to be at work early in the morning, but leaving from here a bit early for lunchtime, and leaving home at ~14:30, I managed to arrive to Iztacala in ~75 minutes. Sustained cycling for 20 Km/h, even counting stops at traffic lights on the way, yay!

Anyway, had a productive and fun evening there, but around 18:00 I decided to head back before night got me — Specially for the first part of the way, as I'm not familiar with Atzcapozalco. Alejandro suggested me to go by the recently (some months ago) opened cycle path that covers 4Km and almost exactly crosses the delegation (each of the 16 constitutive parts of Distrito Federal, where an important part of Mexico City is located).

The cycle path is a good initiative... But I must say, I'm very very glad I took it still with good daylight. As well as the Recreative cyclepath that goes to the South, until the border of Morelos state, this one was built over abandoned rail tracks. Good use for a vacant and useless public space — Rail tracks which lay unclaimed in the city are uncomfortable to walk, and useless for anything else, so they basically mean a useless 2m-wide strip of common grounds. So, I welcome any initiatives that make it into a useful space again! And two meters are just enough for a comfortable cycling path - Yes, which will surely be shared with pedestrians, and sometimes becomes uncomfortable. But lets try it!

However... When rail tracks are decomissioned and cycle paths built over them... the metal should be dismounted! Not only because of economic concerns (good metal used for rail tracks is much more expensive and useful than asphalt), but because if it stays there, it just becomes a danger. Specially, as is the case, if the asphalt is just deep enough to sometimes cover the tracks — And sometimes not.

Had I known, I would have taken several photographs of important mistakes in the rail layout. I know I was very close to having an accident at least once (this means, I lost balance and miraclously managed to slow down from ~15Km/h by running with the bike between my legs!), and got in uncomfortable situations several more times. For a good portion of the track, there is a train track running at about ⅔ of its width, so I had to constantly ring the bell or shout whenever I saw pedestrians — As changing from side to side to route around them would put both them and me in danger. Towards the Southern part of the cycle path, as it is a much more active industrial area, there are many places where multiple tracks cross each other — under the thin asphalt, sometimes completely unpaved. In one of those points I even decided to step down of the bike and make ~20m walking.

This cycle path seems like it was done in a great hurry to present a successful project to the Politicians in Charge, without much thought on what it requires to be really a good project. It provides, yes, a very useful and good mobility solution for cyclists in the North-West. But it is too dangerous... And I am not sure whether I'd take it again. Probably not.

So, all in all...

  • Thanks to the Atzcapozalco authorities who thought of the cyclists and claimed back unused public space for us all to enjoy!
  • The job done was too hasty. Valuable money (selling the tracks) was lost by burying it under asphalt. But it was not enough asphalt — It needs attention before somebody gets hurt (or, before more people — I'd be surprised if nobody had yet felt adrenaline over there)
  • I hope the entrant city government takes the self-powered vehicle promotion more seriously than the outgoing one — Which has done great advances (such as the Ecobici program), but is still far from reaching its promises... As always, I know.
  • I managed to get back home alive and complete, yay!
  • Of course, the cycle path has been mapped into OpenStreetMap. My SportsTracker tracks are also there, but they require Flash (ugh): the way to Iztacala and the way back.

Oh, and lastly: Some might be surprised I'm using bits of Twitterspeak here. But well, I now have presence a bot repeating my posts over there, so I'd better get Alejandro to read this using the proper channels ;-)

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WikiLovesMonuments wants *you* (and me!)

Submitted by gwolf on Mon, 09/03/2012 - 17:35

What, haven't you heard about the WikiLovesMonuments photo contest around cultural heritage? Copying from its web page,

Wiki Loves Monuments is an international photo contest around cultural heritage monuments in September. Starting from the Netherlands in 2010 and organized on a European level in 2011, we go global in 2012!

I heard about this initiative in Iván Martínez's Wikimedia talk at COSIT 2012, held last week in Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz (I intend to write a bit more regarding COSIT later on). I loved the idea, and intend to participate — Not because I take great pictures (I don't, and I usually take them using my aging phone, which gives decent results but nothing beyond that), but because I love to move by bike in the city, and it's one of the best ways to roll in front of some of them. But more on me later… Back to the topic!

WikiLovesMonuments aims to improve on Wikimedia's (the organization behind Wikipedia and several other Free Culture reference projects) coverage of important landmarks all over the world. To do so, they are offering a trip to attend WikiMania 2013 in Hong Kong to the first place winner, and other "photography-related" prizes to the other winners.

So, back to me: My motivation to enter the contest is to help Wikimedia. I know my shots won't be top-notch (although they will be the best I can do). I enjoy biking in my city, and often go not too far from many of the listed monuments. I am amazed at the number of monuments still pending in my area (of course, it's not by mistake this is called "La ciudad de los palacios", The city of the palaces) — Surely some of the readers of this post will have (or will find easy to take) some photos to add. Of course, I'll try to focus on the missing monuments, but if you are a good photographer, you might want to submit a better version for a monument that's already there.

So, some pointers, from what's closest to what's farthest from me:

At least for Mexico, the listings are taken from the National Institute for Anthropology and History (INAH)'s Public registry of archaeological zones and monuments. So, I cannot wait to start my biking session today to get some good end-of-summer evening sun and get some pictures taken! :-D

Space required to transport 60 people

Submitted by gwolf on Tue, 08/21/2012 - 17:09
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Our ride to Cd. Neza

Submitted by gwolf on Mon, 04/16/2012 - 16:33
Our ride to Cd. Neza

54Km. Not a very fast pace, mainly because we were going between people for long stretches of time. Very interesting trip. Further details of the workout (Flash required) in my SportsTracker.

Ecological, recreational zone "Ing. Gerardo Cruickshawn García"

Submitted by gwolf on Mon, 04/16/2012 - 16:12
Ecological, recreational zone "Ing. Gerardo Cruickshawn García"

The Northern edge of Cd. Nezahualcoyotl used to be Mexico City's garbage dump, limited by one of the main open-air sweage systems. Its size is unbelievable – Huge is too small a word for it. After many years of being the dirtiest place in the city, it was shut down. Its land is poisoned unsuitable for basically anything. So, it was buldozered, leveled and covered in sand — and became an Ecological, recreational zone. The saddest, dirtiest ecological zone I've ever seen. A very surrealist setting.

At least, recreational it is. Over the dead soil, 76 football fields were drawn. When we arrived there, we were amazed at the outflow of people – Many, many hundreds of people use this barren place for their Sunday morning sports. It must not be too healthy, but at least there is a sports, convivence area available for its huge population.

This last image gives us a bit of perspective on the size of this beast: Each of the little squares is a full-size football field. There are 76 of them. We entered by the road more or less in the middle and reached near its North-East limt, then back. Didn't even look at the Western part — but it was surely more of the same unbelievable nothingness.

Ecological, recreational zone "Ing. Gerardo Cruickshawn García"

Submitted by gwolf on Mon, 04/16/2012 - 16:12
Ecological, recreational zone "Ing. Gerardo Cruickshawn García"

The Northern edge of Cd. Nezahualcoyotl used to be Mexico City's garbage dump, limited by one of the main open-air sweage systems. Its size is unbelievable – Huge is too small a word for it. After many years of being the dirtiest place in the city, it was shut down. Its land is poisoned unsuitable for basically anything. So, it was buldozered, leveled and covered in sand — and became an Ecological, recreational zone. The saddest, dirtiest ecological zone I've ever seen. A very surrealist setting.

At least, recreational it is. Over the dead soil, 76 football fields were drawn. When we arrived there, we were amazed at the outflow of people – Many, many hundreds of people use this barren place for their Sunday morning sports. It must not be too healthy, but at least there is a sports, convivence area available for its huge population.

This photo shows the soil. Most of it was just like this: Dry compact dirt. In some parts, darker sections, even wet bits (where I guess part of the wetness is still from the decomposing garbage underneath) and patches of grass-like weeds here and there.

Entering the ecological, recreational zone "Ing. Gerardo Cruickshawn García"

Submitted by gwolf on Mon, 04/16/2012 - 16:12
Entering the ecological, recreational zone "Ing. Gerardo Cruickshawn García"

The Northern edge of Cd. Nezahualcoyotl used to be Mexico City's garbage dump, limited by one of the main open-air sweage systems. Its size is unbelievable – Huge is too small a word for it. After many years of being the dirtiest place in the city, it was shut down. Its land is poisoned unsuitable for basically anything. So, it was buldozered, leveled and covered in sand — and became an Ecological, recreational zone. The saddest, dirtiest ecological zone I've ever seen. A very surrealist setting.

At least, recreational it is. Over the dead soil, 76 football fields were drawn. When we arrived there, we were amazed at the outflow of people – Many, many hundreds of people use this barren place for their Sunday morning sports. It must not be too healthy, but at least there is a sports, convivence area available for its huge population.

This photo is the entrance to the park, crossing over the (open) main sewage system. And yes, the smell does not fool you into thinking any other thing.

Ecological, recreational zone "Ing. Gerardo Cruickshawn García"

Submitted by gwolf on Mon, 04/16/2012 - 16:12
Ecological, recreational zone "Ing. Gerardo Cruickshawn García"

The Northern edge of Cd. Nezahualcoyotl used to be Mexico City's garbage dump, limited by one of the main open-air sweage systems. Its size is unbelievable – Huge is too small a word for it. After many years of being the dirtiest place in the city, it was shut down. Its land is poisoned unsuitable for basically anything. So, it was buldozered, leveled and covered in sand — and became an Ecological, recreational zone. The saddest, dirtiest ecological zone I've ever seen. A very surrealist setting.

At least, recreational it is. Over the dead soil, 76 football fields were drawn. When we arrived there, we were amazed at the outflow of people – Many, many hundreds of people use this barren place for their Sunday morning sports. It must not be too healthy, but at least there is a sports, convivence area available for its huge population.

This image shows most of what there is to see inside: Huge spaces of dry dirt lined with football goals. Surreal, huge, impressing

Ecological, recreational zone "Ing. Gerardo Cruickshawn García"

Submitted by gwolf on Mon, 04/16/2012 - 16:12
Ecological, recreational zone "Ing. Gerardo Cruickshawn García"

The Northern edge of Cd. Nezahualcoyotl used to be Mexico City's garbage dump, limited by one of the main open-air sweage systems. Its size is unbelievable – Huge is too small a word for it. After many years of being the dirtiest place in the city, it was shut down. Its land is poisoned unsuitable for basically anything. So, it was buldozered, leveled and covered in sand — and became an Ecological, recreational zone. The saddest, dirtiest ecological zone I've ever seen. A very surrealist setting.

At least, recreational it is. Over the dead soil, 76 football fields were drawn. When we arrived there, we were amazed at the outflow of people – Many, many hundreds of people use this barren place for their Sunday morning sports. It must not be too healthy, but at least there is a sports, convivence area available for its huge population.

This image shows most of what there is to see inside: Huge spaces of dry dirt lined with football goals. Surreal, huge, impressing

El Coyote

Submitted by gwolf on Mon, 04/16/2012 - 16:12
El Coyote

Ciudad Nezahualcóyotl's main symbol: The coyote. Very small, in front of it, you can see a state of Aztec Emperor Nezahualcóyotl — And many public transport minivans, omnipresent in Neza..

El Coyote

Submitted by gwolf on Mon, 04/16/2012 - 16:12
El Coyote

Ciudad Nezahualcóyotl's main symbol: The coyote. Very small, in front of it, you can see a state of Aztec Emperor Nezahualcóyotl.

Ecological, recreational zone "Ing. Gerardo Cruickshawn García"

Submitted by gwolf on Mon, 04/16/2012 - 16:12
Ecological, recreational zone "Ing. Gerardo Cruickshawn García"

The Northern edge of Cd. Nezahualcoyotl used to be Mexico City's garbage dump, limited by one of the main open-air sweage systems. Its size is unbelievable – Huge is too small a word for it. After many years of being the dirtiest place in the city, it was shut down. Its land is poisoned unsuitable for basically anything. So, it was buldozered, leveled and covered in sand — and became an Ecological, recreational zone. The saddest, dirtiest ecological zone I've ever seen. A very surrealist setting.

At least, recreational it is. Over the dead soil, 76 football fields were drawn. When we arrived there, we were amazed at the outflow of people – Many, many hundreds of people use this barren place for their Sunday morning sports. It must not be too healthy, but at least there is a sports, convivence area available for its huge population.

Cabeza de Juárez

Submitted by gwolf on Mon, 04/16/2012 - 16:12
Cabeza de Juárez

Very near Metro Guelatao (Línea A), and about a hundred meters South of Av. Ignacio Zaragoza, the limit between Estado de México (North) and Distrito Federal (South), and thus between Cd. Nezahualcóyotl (North) and Iztapalapa (South), is this colossal «Cabeza de Juárez» (Juárez's head). Benito Juárez was president of Mexico in the 1860s-1870s; this monument is... as ugly as it can get. There is a little museum underneath, although we didn't venture into it.

Al, in Cabeza de Juárez

Submitted by gwolf on Mon, 04/16/2012 - 16:12
Al, in Cabeza de Juárez

See the previous photo for some data on what Cabeza de Juárez is.

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