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Regarding the fatal cycling accident in Ciudad Universitaria

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 President

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.


Anonymous 2010-04-20 19:58:00

El accidente fue en domingo.

El accidente fue en domingo. Los fines de semana no hay circulación de PUMA BUS, las avenidas son vias para ciclistas. El sindicato es un nido de ratas. A cada facultadad a la que vallas te podran decir que el sindicato esconde ladrones y ahora asesinos. Por eso es importante buscar al culpable y que se le juzgue

Bryan 2010-04-15 21:24:39

Creo que faltó algo


Es una pena el fallecimiento de el Dr. Villanueva. Estoy de acuerdo contigo en que hace falta mucha educación vial en CU y en México y que hay que hacer mucho para poder lograr un cambio. Me parece muy bien el proyecto biciUNAMonos que está en el link.

En lo que no estoy de acuerdo es en que sólo pongas un lado de la historia. Al parecer hay testigos que aseguran que el ciclista perdió el control de su bicicleta y se impactó con el autobus. Yo no puedo asegurar quien dice la verdad, sólo me atrevo a hacer la observación de que en las fotos que vienen adjuntas en el mail se muestra que están en el retorno frente al Instituto de Física y si estaba en servicio como dicen los testigos de los blogs es muy difícil que fuera a exceso de velocidad estando practicamente saliendo de su “base”.

Te invito a traducir también lo que hay en este post y en este otro. Aunque creo que sólo los que estuvieron ahí podrán saber la verdad.

Un comentario: Habiendo una ciclopista a lo largo de CU creo que es un poco imprudente transitar por los carriles por los que también transitan los automóviles. Ojo no digo que no tengan derecho. Como mencioné antes hay un grave problema de educación vial. Ese problema también se ve en los peatones y en los ciclistas. No porque invadan los carriles de la ciclopista (“There are a couple of cyclist ways, usually invaded by pedestrians, and explicitly made to use the Bicipuma system”) vas a dejar de usarlos.

Por último NADIE merece morir por un accidente sin importar quién sea el culpable qdep Dr. Jorge Villanueva.

Felipe Esquivel 2010-04-15 10:10:10


Yo antes recorría la ciudad en bibicleta. Actualmente ya no me atrevo a hacerlo, puede ser mi edad, que ya tengo hijos.

gwolf 2010-04-21 05:26:48

No podemos ser irresponsablemente lapidarios

gwolf 2010-04-21 05:43:41

Mencionas varios puntos importantes

No había respondido a tu mensaje hasta hoy, y no lo estoy haciendo por completo en realidad, porque hay mucho por determinar aún. Hay muchos asuntos que están todavía siendo investigados, y prácticamente cualquier cosa que digamos está basada en especulaciones. Estudios bastante preliminares apuntan a que parte muy importante de la responsabilidad del accidente fue del ciclista, por conducir de forma imprudente — Pero no puedo dejar de apuntar a que la salida de los pumabuses tiene claras deficiencias que reducen peligrosamente la visisbilidad de los conductores, y que éstos muchas veces asumen que sólo encontrarán con el rabillo del ojo a un vehículo.

Respecto a la ciclopista de CU: Sí y no. Es práctica sólo para la zona central de la UNAM, parte importante de CU no está cubierta. Los peatones la usan para caminar, así que además de no llevarte a todos lados, muchas veces es más incómoda y más peligrosa que irte “por afuera”. Además, es bien sabido por todos los usuarios frecuentes de CU tanto que el circuito Mtro. Mario de la Cueva (el circuito que va de Metro Universidad hacia el sur) es ampliamente utilizado como circuito de entrenamiento ciclista, y que el domingo prácticamente todas las calles de CU, cerradas al tránsito vehicular, son favoritas por todo tipo de personas que hacen deporte o sencillamente se entretienen en ellas - Ciclistas, patinadores, corredores, gente que sale con sus niños a caminar. Los conductores deben ser especialmente conscientes y cuidadosos, especialmente alguien que –como el conductor del pumabús– circulan frecuentemente por ahí.

Hay mucho que investigar (formalmente, más allá de lo que alguien como yo pueda hacer). Pero coincido en lo último que dices: Lo importante es que hubo un accidente fatal, y hay que evitar que vuelva a haber uno. Sin culpar al individuo, sino que a las circunstancias: ¿Cómo hacer para evitar que éstas vuelvan a conjuntarse?

toxickore 2010-04-15 17:02:57

Difícil pero no imposible.

Igual que terminar con la corrupción, es de laborioso y difícil terminar con la mala cultura vial en México, pero paso a paso se logrará. Bicis blancas, cada vez mas, en estas ciudades hechas para el rey auto.