Monthly Archives: December 2011

Guadalajara Bike Activists Use Business to Promote & Fund Cycling Infrastructure & Bike Share

This Ciclo Puerto was built by Bicipublica and is designed for 6 bikes to fit in the space of one car parking spot. ©Ryan H.

Originally Published at http://www.activerightofway.org

When cycling activists in Guadalajara, Mexico were frustrated with the lack of bike parking in their city, they decided to build it themselves! A group of Cycling activists in Guadalajara, Mexico called Bicipublica have taken an innovative approach to the lack of cycling infrastructure in their city. These cyclists decided to start an enterprise building bike racks and selling them to local businesses. A win-win situation for the community, Guadalajara now has 230 “Ciclo Puertos” or ‘Cycle Ports’ at businesses throughout the city and the sales of the racks help fund the activists and their cycling ambitions.

We met with Mario Delgado Padilla and Sra. Itcell Islas, respectively the director and graphic designer for Bicipublica. Their organization was started from a group of Industrial Designers that would commute by bike. These designers were interested in issues regarding mobility and urban design. At their workplaces, there was no bike parking and they began to devise ideas to create efficient bike parking. Mario Padilla told us how, “Our idea was to design bike racks that were capable of fitting as many bicycles as possible in the space of one automobile.”

“Initially, our plans were without political support from the government, so we designed bike parking to sell to private businesses.” They designed a very odd looking, but efficiently designed rack that held each bike at a different height. This allowed more bicycles to be parked, by having the handlebars of each bike at a different level. Each of the Cilco Puertos could hold six bikes in a former car parking space.

Bicipublica successfully marketed, sold, and installed these Cycle Ports to private businesses around the city. Each Ciclo Puerto has a sign printed with the logo of the business, a bike map, and cycling route finding for the area around each business. Because of the City Government’s failure to envision other modes of transit, it was up to individual businesses to install infrastructure to attract customers traveling by cycle. Bicipublica filled this void and has installed 230 of these cycle ports throughout Guadalajara.

This Ciclo Puerto was purchased by Oxxo from Bicipublica and is located at one of their stores located on the weekly Via Recreativa route. ©Ryan H.

This cooperation with private business is a crucial aspect of the Bicipublica cycle plan. The organization located the racks at cafes, mini markets, restaurants, bars, & stores. Bicipublica also made an online Google map of all of the existing Ciclo Puertos and made this available on their website, www.bikla.net.

When the local municipal government became aware of these cycle racks and of the online mapping, they were excited that Bicipublica was doing their job for them and providing public cycling infrastructure by working with local businesses. The Municipality of Guadalajara agreed to help provide some initial grant funding to allow Bicipublica’s cycle parking plan to grow.

Bicipublica used the money earned from sales of the racks to start working on other ambitious plans that the city lacked the political will to pursue. One of these projects funded by the sales of the Ciclo Puertos is Bicipublica’s ambitious Bikla bike sharing network. Unlike other cycle sharing networks in the world, Bikla is designed to be self sustainable with user fees and to have minimal start up costs.

The cycling activists – social entrepreneurs of Guadalajra have many lessons to teach the world about developing affordable cycling infrastructure without political or governmental support. Bicicpublica looked to fill a void in their mobility network, turning lemons into lemonade by selling bike racks to private businesses and using the funds for their other ambitious mobility plans for Guadalajara.

Ciclopuertos with Bike Route Directions

For more information, find Bicipublica at http://www.bikla.net or on Facebook at BKT Bici Publica

This story was written by Ryan Hashagen & translated and edited by Lale Santelices.  portlandpedals@gmail.com

We are currently travelling overland and sea from Portland, Oregon to Puerto Montt, Chile investigating Latin American cycling culture.

Stay tuned for our next story of how Bicipublica has developed a affordable and innovative bike sharing system.

More photos of Guadalajara & these travels are located at http://www.flickr.com/portlandpedalworks

When cycling activists in Guadalajara, Mexico were frustrated with the lack of bike parking in their city, they decided to build it themselves! A group of Cycling activists in Guadalajara, Mexico called Bicipublica have taken an innovative approach to the lack of cycling infrastructure in their city. These cyclists decided to start an enterprise building bike racks and selling them to local businesses. A win-win situation for the community, Guadalajara now has 230 “Ciclo Puertos” or ‘Cycle Ports’ at businesses throughout the city and the sales of the racks help fund the activists and their cycling ambitions.

We met with Mario Delgado Padilla and Sra. Itcell Islas, respectively the director and graphic designer for Bicipublica. Their organization was started from a group of Industrial Designers that would commute by bike. These designers were interested in issues regarding mobility and urban design. At their workplaces, there was no bike parking and they began to devise ideas to create efficient bike parking. Mario Padilla told us how, “Our idea was to design bike racks that were capable of fitting as many bicycles as possible in the space of one automobile.”

“Initially, our plans were without political support from the government, so we designed bike parking to sell to private businesses.” They designed a very odd looking, but efficiently designed rack that held each bike at a different height. This allowed more bicycles to be parked, by having the handlebars of each bike at a different level. Each of the Cilco Puertos could hold six bikes in a former car parking space.

Bicipublica successfully marketed, sold, and installed these Cycle Ports to private businesses around the city. Each Ciclo Puerto has a sign printed with the logo of the business, a bike map, and cycling route finding for the area around each business. Because of the City Government’s failure to envision other modes of transit, it was up to individual businesses to install infrastructure to attract customers traveling by cycle. Bicipublica filled this void and has installed 230 of these cycle ports throughout Guadalajara.

Ciclopuerto Bike Rack in Guadaalajara

This cooperation with private business is a crucial aspect of the Bicipublica cycle plan. The organization located the racks at cafes, mini markets, restaurants, bars, & stores. Bicipublica also made an online Google map of all of the existing Ciclo Puertos and made this available on their website,www.bikla.net.

When the local municipal government became aware of these cycle racks and of the online mapping, they were excited that Bicipublica was doing their job for them and providing public cycling infrastructure by working with local businesses. The Municipality of Guadalajara agreed to help provide some initial grant funding to allow Bicipublica’s cycle parking plan to grow.

Bicipublica used the money earned from sales of the racks to start working on other ambitious plans that the city lacked the political will to pursue. One of these projects funded by the sales of the Ciclo Puertos is Bicipublica’s ambitious Bikla bike sharing network. Unlike other cycle sharing networks in the world, Bikla is designed to be self sustainable with user fees and to have minimal start up costs.

The cycling activists – social entrepreneurs of Guadalajra have many lessons to teach the world about developing affordable cycling infrastructure without political or governmental support. Bicicpublica looked to fill a void in their mobility network, turning lemons into lemonade by selling bike racks to private businesses and using the funds for their other ambitious mobility plans for Guadalajara.

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For more information, find Bicipublica at http://www.bikla.net or on Facebook at BKT Bici Publica

This story was written by Ryan Hashagen & translated and edited by Lale Santelices.  portlandpedals@gmail.com

We are currently travelling overland and sea from Portland, Oregon to Puerto Montt, Chile investigating Latin American cycling culture.

Stay tuned for our next story of how Bicipublica has developed a affordable and innovative bike sharing system.

More photos of Guadalajara & these travels are located at http://www.flickr.com/globalgreenways

Originally Published at http://www.activerightofway.org

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Two Very Different Nights in Mazatlan

We arrived to Mazatlan at eleven at night (5 hours later than we were promised and sold). It was dark and late.
There was a lot of partying on the streets surrounding the bus terminal which made us frightened. After hearing so many horror stories, the last thing we wanted was to be on a foreign place with no plans, no friends and huge backpacks.
We frantically walked around the blocks near the bus depot, shopping around and we found an affordable hotel room that supposedly air-conditioned and had WiFi.  We paid one nights fee and followed the man to our humble abode.  He gave as the key with a great big smile and a “Buenas Noches.” We were overjoyed saying: “WE MADE IT” with our traditional Mazatlan Bedbugscelebratory high-five, immediately followed by  “is that a roach walking on our pillow?”Fortunately, it was not ONE roach, but actually TWO gigantic roaches taking a stroll on the white linen. Alas, it was by now much too late, we had already paid, and we had nowhere else to go. So we laid down a blue plastic tarp on the bed and opened our sleeping bags where we slept pillow-less on the tarp.
Next morning we gathered our belongings, thanked the man and

Pulmonias Taxis in Mazatlan

investigated town. Mazatlan is a beautiful city full of life with a beautiful historic district and tons of these crazy Golf Cart taxis, called “Pulmonias” buzzing around.  One of our biggest surprises with Mexico was all the suburban sprawl! Big box stores fringed the historic city.

We explored town, walking the waterfront and taking in all the foreign sights.  We had never seen preschool walls guarded by broken glass embedded in concrete along the top.
We wandered the colonial streets and found a Paleteria!  Back in Portland, we run an Ice Cream Tricycle business vending fruit popsicles made from Paleteria Paisanito in Woodburn, Oregon.  The owner of Paisanito makes the most delicious treats and even custom flavors for us.  We were so excited to find a Paleteria here in Mazatlan and even more excited that they were trying new popsicle making techniques, like not using corn syrup and trying natural coloring.  The owner was a bit bewildered to meet Tricycle Paleta Vendors from Gringolandia, but she happily toured us around her cute shop.  We left with big smiles and devoured her fruit treats in the Mexican sun.

Family Biking in Mazatlan

The old town is gorgeous and we explored it’s narrow alleys.  As the day wore on, we began to think about the night.  Not wanting to sleep with our cockroach friends again, we logged online at a web cafe on the main plaza and checked into Couchsurfing.com.  We had used CouchSurfing once on our trip South in the States and had a great night with an old professor on the Oregon Coast.  We had received some offers in Mazatlan, but did not want to call our hosts that late at night.  It is always a bit nerve wracking to make the CS call, our plans always are upended, usually in a great way.

We called our potential host.  It was late in the afternoon and Miguel was just waking up, he scolded us for not calling him the night before.  Miguel knew the cafe that we were at and he sent his favorite taxi driver to pick us up!  His address was in Zona Dorada or the Gold Zone.  The taxi showed up promptly and wove in and out of traffic to get us from the historic center to Miguel’s abode.  The streets were hectic and busy as we drove through the neighborhoods.  Street performers dressed as ancient Aztec warriors danced in the intersections for spare change.
The Gold Zone lived up to its name and the businesses turned dramatically glossier and more corporate as we approached the entrance to Miguel’s gated community.  Lale and i spoke to each other nervously in English, trying to figure out whether we had gotten ourselves into trouble here.  Were we heading to the palace of a Narco?
Miguel lived in this palatial housing complex surrounding a golf course and many swimming pools.  We were not sure what to expect.
He came out of his beautiful condo and welcomed with perfectly American accented English.  Miguel toured us through his place and showed us our room with a private bathroom, Egyptian cotton sheets, and our own personal towels!
We settled into conversation and slowly discovered that Miguel was just a dorky fellow who worked for a Canadian mining company.  The luxurious setting of his housing community was mostly a haven for American Gringo retirees and for rich Mexicans.
For the next two days, we enjoyed this royal CouchSurfing lifestyle.  Miguel insisted on going out on the town and we had dinner in the middle of the Historic Center.  Afterwards, he slick talked us into the municipal theater and we watched an incredible choir and concert.  It was quite a remarkable difference from our Cockroach motel!

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From Tijuana to Mazatlan by Bus

Crossing the Border on Foot

We were scared.

Our travels had gone well so far in the ol’ U.S. of A., but now we had entered Mexico.  The American newspapers were filled with stories of daily carnage in la Nortena.  Even our friends from Michoacan were afraid to return home.

We walked through the border crossing turnstile and joined the herd of people walking into Tijuana at the end of the work day.  Getting to San Diego from Washington State by Public transit, Craigslist, and Hitchhiking was a great adventure, but the entire time we were looking towards our next big step: Mexico. But once we had crossed the border, we felt, for the first time, like lost tourists.  We obviously stood out as backpackers and we were pulled aside by well armed Mexican Military men to be searched.

The sun hung low in the sky.  We fumbled around looking for the Bus Station.  We were nervous about who to trust, paranoid of how we stuck out like some sore thumbs.

We were not even sure where we were headed, we just wanted to make it South safely.  Mazatlan was a name that we had seen on advertisements in Portland.  We took a gamble and decided to get tickets there.  We were suspicious of the bus companies and their sales reps and we compared all of their prices.

By wonderful grace, some fellows outside the terminal had overheard Lale’s accent as we were debating buses and wanted to know where she was from.  As we spoke with them, the Chilean miners were being pulled out of the collapsed mine in the Atacama.  The world media was obsessed with “Los 33,” the rescued miners.  The old men warmed up to us and excitedly told us the most recent updates about the Chileans that they heard on the radio.  These men also took care of us and told us to save some money by heading to the Central Bus Terminal in Tijuana.

The problem was that the Central Terminal was across town and we could not walk there safely.  We nervously waved down a taxi.  Our fear came out as awkwardness.  Luckily Lale mentioned the Chilean Miners and like many times on our trip, they were our conversational saving grace. The driver launched into enthusiastically telling us his conspiracy theories of Los 33.

We boarded our bus to Mazatlan as the sun set.  Most of the seats were empty. Surrounding our seat were just three rough looking fellows, each wearing a ‘wife-beater’ tank top.  A taco vendor boarded the bus and rode East with us working up and down the aisle, selling his tamales and tacos.  We declined his offer, our doctor had told us to avoid street food to prevent travel sickness.

The vendor made his way back up the aisle and asked us in Spanish, “Chicken or Beef?”  We were confused and protested that we had not ordered any tacos.  He informed us that our sketchy looking neighbor had paid for us!  Oh man, that was sweet, but why?! Is he trying to fatten us up for the Narcos who are going to blockade the bus at night?  Our paranoid minds raced rapidly as we smiled and said “Muchas Gracias.”

The bus continued East along the border, with the impoverished Tijuana slums  facing a deep, steep, vacant canyon, patrolled by heavily armed and fortified U.S. Border Patrol.  This truly was a frontier. On the Mexican side, humanity crammed on every inch of soil, facing the empty, militarized expanse of Gringolandia. The evening became pitch black and fast food joints and neon bars lit up the night as we traveled away from the frontier.

We settled in for a 30 hour bus ride, prayed for safe travels, and settled into sleep.  We had promised our mothers that we would make it safely home.

Sonoran Sunset

We were awoken abruptly in the middle of the night by Mexican armed forces. They ordered us off the bus and we panicked.  All of the stories of night blockades and fake police checkpoints were racing in our mind.  We were the only foreigners on the bus.  They lined us up inside this concrete building, forcing us to drag our bags from the bus with us.  Heavily armed soldiers watched us sternly.  Confused, we proceeded in the line, which culminated with a push button and a head level stop light.  Folks would push the little button and either would get a green or a red light.  A red light meant you would get dragged aside to be searched and a green told you to get back on the bus.  By the luck of the draw, we both got the green go ahead and scrambled back onto the bus to the safety of our scattered slumber.

As we discovered throughout our travels, the long distance buses of Latin America are luxurious.  The bus had filled by morning with many families as we stopped in small Northern cities.  We all watched bootleg movies with spanish dubbing.

We would stop every few hours to stretch legs and buy snacks or a meal.  These stops were a great time for us to make eye contact and friends with all of our fellow passengers.  It turns out that our sketchy neighbors were absolute sweethearts!  We all climbed back on the bus and shared our snacks and traded stories.

We all had a common purpose, getting home to Mom’s house.  Lale was headed to the South of Chile to see her mother and our three friends were also heading home to see their mothers for the first time in many years.  Each of our buddies had their bus ticket paid by U.S. Homeland Security and was being deported home after serving felony sentences in California.

When we had first encountered these guys, we were purely afraid of them and everything else in the North of Mexico.  By the time we neared their respective hometowns, we actually felt safer having these guys as our travelling companions.

The guy in the seat in front of us traded potato chips and sevillanas and shared his life in California.  He had been raised in L.A. and had not been to Mexico since he was a child.  He was so nervous to see his Mom, he did not know how she would react to him being sent home.  Lale reassured him that his Mother would delight in seeing her long lost child, that he would be her early Christmas gift!  Excitedly, he showed us the present he had brought for his Mother.  He asked “Do you think my Mama will like these photos?”  We looked them over and here was him and his guys posing in prison garb in front of the weight set in the prison yard throwing down their hand signs!  “Oh, your Mom will just be so happy to see you!” was our reassuring response.

View from the Bus

The North of Mexico transformed from the Sonoran desert to lusher regions as we made it South.  We felt more confident as we made it out of the land of the Nortenas.  We waved goodbye to our new friends as they climbed off the bus and were embraced by their waiting families.  As would happen many times on our trip South, our perceptions and stereotypes were challenged by friendliness and hospitality. And now, we were a little less scared.  Real people with real stories had replaced the fearmongering headlines.

Buen Viaje!

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