By Mauricio Gonzalez – Guest Blogger

What do Colombia, Panama and Salvador have in common?

There is a cycling tradition being spread throughout Latin America. This tradition is known as “Ciclovía de Los Domingos” or Sunday bikeway. Every Sunday, people go out with their family and pets to enjoy doing something that otherwise is forbidden on weekdays, which is riding bicycles and doing sports in the middle of the most transited highways of the principal cities.

This ritual attracts thousands of people every Sunday, and it is becoming more and more popular. The weekly activity is finding benefits in public health, as well as in many new jobs that take advantage of the crowds to sell all kinds of beautiful products and delicious foods, making this activity even more pleasant and colourful.

 

Bikeway Medellin

No wonder many governments in Latin America are making big efforts regarding security and logistics to find ways to implement and encourage this tradition. As I argued in my two previous posts, the development of these cities is measured by their capability of offering facilities for humans, rather than for cars. Encouraging citizens to use bicycles is a great strategy to promote new alternatives that will make any city a great place to live.
The following pictures are from Medellin, known as “the city of the eternal spring”. As can be seen, this is a lovely place to be active, to buy homemade nutritious juices, walk around with pets and meet new people. Aside from days like this, there is little regulation for cyclists, however at these events, police and ambulances are always present so that locals and families have a safe and enjoyable time.

Source: www.sustainablecitiescollective.com

Source: www.sustainablecitiescollective.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Source: www.elcolombiano.com

Source: www.elcolombiano.com

Source: www.elcolombiano.com

Source: www.elcolombiano.com

Source: Source: www.inder.gov.co

Source: Source: www.inder.gov.co

Panama City

Panama City is also a good example of progress. It seems that this activity is a little bit more regulated since people have to use helmets when they go for a ride. Similarly, to people from Medellin, Panama City locals really enjoy this activity with their families and children.

Panama City Ciclovia Source: www.elsiglo.com

Panama City Ciclovia Source: www.elsiglo.com

 

Bicycles are more and more becoming part of, and creating their own colourful Latino traditions.

Do you know any other city where the whole town is involved in a ride once a week?

 

Mauricio Gonzalez is our Guest Blogger, unveiling some of Latin America’s bicycle culture for the fortnight from 20th June to 2nd July.

By Mauricio Gonzalez – Guest Blogger

 

Brazil is the 5th largest country in the world, and it is also the place of massive cities such as Rio de Janeiro, which has 12,700,000 inhabitants, and Sao Paulo, with 21, 000,000 people. This expansive and sexy and country is well known for its colourful and warm culture, as well as for its social issues and unequal distribution of wealth. This post will look at some of the different perceptions that bicycles have in Brazil.

Bicycles are for the poor

According to The Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE) (2014), 40% of those who use bicycles as a means of transportation in Brazil have family incomes of up to R $ 1,200. These are the Brazilians that are more affected by high taxation, which hinders access to a product that has higher quality and a more equitable value, therefore favouring migration to other means of transport, especially motor vehicles.

This taxation could be up to 72% per bicycle – which is manufactured in Brazil. That said, the price of bicycles in Brazil is a real limitation when it comes to providing transportation access to those who really need it. Regardless of the decreasing number of people living in extreme poverty in Brazil, which has at 64% in 2001 and fell from 13.6% to then 4.9% by 2013, according to data released this week by the World Bank. Granting the means of transport within such crowded cities is a must.

Source: Revistabicicleta.com

Source: Revistabicicleta.com

 

Today Brazil is the 3rd largest producer of bicycles in the world, after China and India. It is the 5th largest consumer of bicycles in the world, representing a share of 4.4% of the international market.

However, the per capita consumption of bicycles, fell to the 22th place, which highlights an emerging market with great growth potential. If the prohibitive tax is eliminated by 2016, the increase in sales could promote the economy, give more employments opportunities and the government could collect more money from other existing taxes.

 

Democratising the use of bicycles.

The City Hall of Salvador worked together with Itau Bank to provide 20 bike stations, where citizens can get a bicycle to ride for free within the city. The citizens just need to call or register their trip with an app on their mobile phones. This kind of initiatives is democratising and encouraging the use of bicycles to go to work or to go shopping. Nowadays, there are even more bike taxis on the roads, which are creating even more jobs.

To conclude, bicycles have the opportunity to make a significant difference if there is enough willingness from the Brazilian government to facilitate this means of transport that could help to break the inequality and will create more equitable opportunities for all.

 

Mauricio Gonzalez is our Guest Blogger, unveiling some of South America’s bicycle culture for the fortnight from 20th June to 2nd July.

By Mauricio Gonzalez – Guest Blogger

 

Planning cities for people – an international perspective by Enrique Penalosa

Big crowded cities, especially those in developing countries, have to deal with mobility. This issue is a determinant when it comes to measuring living standards. That said, Enrique Penalosa, the former Mayor of Bogota City in Colombia, argues that it is impossible to imagine a city without imagining the transport system first. Therefore, this post is about the change that can be created in a city that is designed for people rather than for cars. Which kind of city do you think would be more modern?

Many people would say that a city with more facilities for technological advances and one that is more futuristic and integrative of the 21st a city is better. However, to what extent do you think that model is sustainable and what kinds of people do you think could live in a city that is more focused on the devices than on themselves?

By comparing cities like Bogota, Stambul, London, New York, Amsterdam and others around the world, a contrast is revealed regarding the importance of people of living in cities. Humans are pedestrians, not machines. Cars were created to shorten distances, but cities have to be designed so they are enjoyable spaces. A beautiful city is, therefore, one that integrates the outdoors.

Source: Youtube - Bogota Bureau.com

The aim of cars and any transportation system is to take people from one place to another safely. Public transport is considered by Enrique Penalosa as an expression of democracy. Building cities for citizens is a good sign that shows that the government respects all kind of citizens, including those who cannot afford a car.

When you see modernised cities, you can find wide sidewalks where people can walk and enjoy with their children.

Source: Youtube – Bogota Bureau.com

In undeveloped countries, between 10% and 30% of people have cars. In Bogota, for instance, only 20% of people have a car. In such countries, the lack of development is evident when you see people without cars. In these places, people with no cars are considered to be third class citizens and people with them, are considered to be first class.

Furthermore, sidewalks should not be considered as being part of the streets, but as being part of plazas and parks where people can enjoy being with each other. To this end, Penalosa argues that a city that is designed for 20% of the population, is not a democracy and sidewalks are for enjoying the space, not just for passing by.

 

Source: Streetsblog.com

Source: Streetsblog.com

 

Source: blog.rmi.org

Source: blog.rmi.org

 

Overall, the use of bicycles is not enough. Bicycles have to be part of the political agenda when it comes to planning proper infrastructure that facilitates the benefits non-motor vehicles and public transport. It is recommended that people stop seeing buses and bicycles as means of transport for the poor. Instead, they are important cultural tools that are evidence of development and high living standards.

 

Enrique Peñalosa – “Planning Cities for People: An International Perspective”.

Mauricio Gonzalez is our Guest Blogger, unveiling some of South America’s bicycle culture for the next fortnight from 20th June to 2nd July.

My bike commute from home to Griffith Uni is about 23kms. I have a regular route that I take, which is mostly on linked up bike paths, but in parts requires me to ride on ride on Old Cleveland Road, which I find quite disconcerting and dangerous. I always make sure I am as safe as possible and take no chances when navigating this part of my ride. I’m always on high alert.

The last time I rode to work in the morning, I had the distinct feeling of being unsafe when on riding Old Cleveland Rd – and I mean more so than usual. It was a little unsettling. I thought that there had to be a better way to get to work that cut out this busy road section. But I was already on my way, so I acknowledged it, but purposefully chose not to invest into it, as I was already on my way and wigging myself out more while on the bike certainly was not going to help. I moved onto the pavement and rode very conservatively until I got to work with no problems.

On the way home that same day, I had stopped at a set of lights and looked over to see a yellow recumbent roll in front of me. I caught up with the yellow tic-tac and started a conversation with the rider by telling him I have a mate in Brisbane who has a red recumbent which I thought he would know. I felt pretty confident that he knew my mate (whose recumbent is red), had told me that he and two other recumbents sometimes go for a ride together – red, yellow and green altogether.

Who is in that yellow recumbent?

The rider introduced himself as Malcolm and asked me where I was going. It turns out we were pretty much heading in the same direction. Malcolm asked me if I wanted to check out a new way home – his route, which cuts out all of Old Cleveland Road. I was intrigued, had no time constraints, was up for a chat and after my strange premonition from the morning, I welcomed being shown a new route to work.

Well ….we had a great time.

We rolled along, chatting about bikes and riding, making connections and exchanging suggestions and ideas – it was a lovely ride back. The route he showed me popped me out exactly where I needed to go – it was safe, relaxed and we passed some amazing properties. I found out that Malcolm and his wife (who has the green recumbent) are into organising MTB orienteering events, which sounded like a lot of fun.

Synchronicity

When it came to parting ways, I thanked him for his time and for showing me my new favourite way to work. He gave me his card and I asked if I could take his photo. I rode away with a smile on my face, marvelling at providence and how the universe provides. Just another reason why I love riding my bike – those seemingly random encounters that turn out to have a significant impact on your life (and safety!).

I tip my hat to Malcolm, so freely supporting and helping other riders in such a friendly and organic way – I’m sure he has no idea how much impact my meeting him will have for me – a new safer and more enjoyable ride home.

Thanks so much Malcolm!!

Meeting Malcolm

Meeting Malcolm

 

Postscript – Unfortunately, the video that is the basis for this post was removed from public viewing a few weeks after this was posted – it was a real gem for those who were lucky enough to view it before it was taken down!


 

This engaging MTB video of Dan McMunn’s MTB Life is an entrant in the Shimano Video competition and is a stellar example and timely reminder for all – that riding a bike should be a joyous addition to life, one that is shared with those you care about, and it should be a way of enriching your quality of life, relationships and self.

Dan MacMunn is a well respected and accomplished Australian Endruo rider and all round good guy hailing from Spring Gully in Victoria. I have known Dan for a number of years now and I have followed with interest his impressive rise during the 2013- 2014 Victorian Enduro Series and his sojourns racing Enduro overseas.

I love the genuineness of this video; it is remarkable in its simplicity and celebration of the everyday life. I often hear (many male) riders complaining about all manner of family commitments, or partners who don’t ‘let’ them go riding or having to work too hard (and the list of excuses goes on).

Which is why this video is so refreshing. It embraces all those elements that others say hold them back from riding and highlights the domestic as something that is beneficial, encouraged and valuable to being a good rider. I also really appreciate that this video recognises and brings to the fore Dan’s family members as being integral to his riding experiences – the imagery that his kids are never far away from him, that biking is a shared experience and not undertaken as separate to those close to you, or in isolation from who may not be as competent on the bike as you.

For me, this insight into Dan’s life is not only interesting because it is frankly personal, but also that it is consolatory of those who support him to ride. Family members are often positioned as silent second fiddles to bike riders and are usually only publicly recognised when thanked by their rider on the podium. Which is why I like this video so much, as it openly acknowledges Dan’s appreciation for the everyday unification of the familial and the sportive aspects of his mountain biking, which I find is an often unrecognised and underrepresented factor as to what makes a rider.

Families, kids and partners are often represented as being, at best invisible (or maybe supportively cheering on the sidelines at races), at worst hindrances that ‘take time away’ from riding bikes. A case in point is an interview Dan did with Australian Mountain Bike magazine, which gives intricate details of his adventures and travels competing riding and leading up to him competing in the European World Series (EWS) Enduro Circuit, which is really inspiring to read. However,  towards the end of the article is a single line by itself reading ‘Dan’s recently become a Dad, but still plans to compete again next year’. Aside from the paltry recognition given to his family that Dan has ‘recently become a dad’, the further statement ‘but he still plans’ to keep riding insinuates that your riding life is over if you have kids – what a crock! – as this video well demonstrates!

Surely riders like Dan are better riders because of the support of his family – not in spite of it. (No mention of course that his partner is also a highly decorated rider, who is a champion Australian Elite women’s XC racer and that they both ride hard, love the sport and give back to the biking community, but I suppose this particular article is specifically about his riding experiences). Either way, my point is that family members of bikers are rarely given the prominence or framed in such a positive, fun and integrated way as in this video – so kudos to those who produced this video!

It also signifies a more salient aspect of riding – it is proof that riding a bike is so much more than being fast on trails and that a true champion rider is not just skilled on the bike, but off the bike as well.

Dan McMunn is a fantastic advocate and ambassador for the biking lifestyle; a killer pinner on the trails, a sincere and principled man, dedicated to his family, work and community and all round honourable and solid man.

I can only hope the rest of us get to experience the obvious joy and happiness that Dan derives from both his riding and his family – what a positive change that would be.

Style Over Speed – Radio segment featuring Leki

About three weeks ago, during Brisbane’s Bike Week, I attended the lovely “Style Over Speed” event. On arrival, people were gathering and chatting, getting to know each other and checking out the assembled bikes. I spoke to a number of people on the night and one of those people was Caroline Jones. She introduced herself and said she is a community reporter and was interviewing people about their experiences of bike riding and their participation in the event. Caroline came over to talk with me after seeing Leki (covered as usual in her amazing flowers) and we got chatting, and she asked if she could interview me, which I was happy to do.

Leki

I had totally forgotten that I had spoken with Caroline earlier on that night until just yesterday a local shop owner said they had heard me being interviewed on the radio. This was news to me, so I looked it up – and found that sure enough, Caroline’s report had aired and my segment had been included.

The original airing was on 621am, on 30th May, 8.21am on Spencer Howon’s morning show. It is short, positive and I appreciate the way that each of the participants interviewed had a different aspect to contribute. I think it was a great way to show the diverse approaches, reasons and personalities that ride bike – and captured the community spirit of the riders and the event very well.

I will most definitely be attending another Style over Speed event. You can see what they are up to on their Facebook page here. I’d love to see more events like this occurring in our communities, it makes biking more accessible, social and fun and opens biking up to a wider demographic.

If you are in Brisbane or visiting, I highly recommend that you attend one of these events.

Source: @bikepretty on Instagram

Source: @bikepretty on Instagram

On the weekend, I rode the South East Queensland (SEQ) Enduro 2016 Round 3 at Garapine. It was my first Enduro foray out this year, but I wanted to make the effort to get on the bike after a very busy semester. I needed the fresh air and break from Brisbane. I didn’t care about racing fast or the forecast, people were warning it was going to be pouring with rain and super muddy, but I don’t mind. I’m from Victoria and ridden in some pretty wet and muddy conditions and come out with a super smile on my face – there more people whinge about the conditions, the more fun I seem to have. I see it as an attitude and a decision to make. As long as I’m not cold – I’m up for riding in pretty much any weather conditions – besides, I like the challenge to use new skills.

Meet new peeps

I also wanted to make an effort to meet some more people in the Enduro scene up here and catch up with some riders that I had met in Cairns for the UCI World Cup earlier this year – as well as support the event. I haven’t been training or riding the big bike for ages, so it was a perfect opportunity to go up and be social, have a ride and get a feel for the series. I was impressed with the genuine welcome and warmth that was extended. I heard my name being shouted out as I rode past people and the Defcon boys especially made an effort to welcome me and cheer me on. So to the Defcon Team -especially to Stu (thanks for asking me to ride in your jersey), Andy, Matt, Tim and Luke – thanks for your support, laughs and great company on the trails – you make my day even better!

Masters Women

I entered the Women Masters division for a number of reasons. Firstly I wanted to populate the women’s divisions – and being a little older, I think it is really important for the general public to see older women riding. In some small way, because I love riding so much, I feel like it is my responsibility (and my pleasure) to ride for my age group – primarily to show that women 40-50 ride mountain bikes, to encourage other women to join in but also because I like riding at my own pace – as I’ve said before.. I’m a rider, not a racer. The rest of the competitors did super well, and I was very impressed with the field, including a young female U15 entrant which was great to see and results on the day speak for themselves.

A league of her own

Well, I had a great time. I rolled through the trails, just enjoying the tracks, had a laugh, got sweaty, cheered on other riders, made some new friends and had a thoroughly enjoyable day. I ended taking out Masters Women, not because I was fast, just because I was the only entrant – but that was the whole point. As long as there are people riding different divisions, it gives opportunity and options for others.

So all in all – I had a great day, tricky new trails and lots of fun.

I ended up being tired, safe, happy and delighted to be back on the bike – what a perfect day!!

IMG_1479

Darwin is not the first Australian capital city that comes to mind when you think of community bicycle projects – which is exactly why I found this project so reassuring. The idea of providing a free bicycle workshop space for locals to come and repair bikes and learn skills is not new, but in a place like Darwin it is fantastic to see the love of bike and community spirit alive and well.

Darwin Community Arts – Malak Bike Shed

This particular bike workshop in Malak caught my eye because I think it was great that it is run as part of the Darwin Community Arts program. Often such initiatives are either labour-of-loves for an individual or part of an NGO or community group, but certainly not usually part of a Council Arts Program. The Darwin Community Arts website invitation to the public to come and visit the workshop and use their services is refreshingly positive. They offer workspace, tools, mentoring, skills share – and some fun and innovative ideas.

One of the most exciting aspects for me is that locals can not only repair bikes, but there is also facilities and a regular Saturday morning Underground Arts workshop where you can decorate your bikes as well – which I think is great! I like the idea of instigating more colour, spunk and personality whizzing by on two wheels around the streets of  Darwin! Riding should be a fun, artistic and communal experience.

Source: Bike Shed Malak

Source: Bike Shed Malak