15 March 2010

The Joy of Bicycles in Mexico City

Reforma Sunday Angel
After my recent visit to México City I am left with a myriad of impressions from all the different events. I'll get to blogging about them but sitting here wondering where to start there is one thing that keeps elbowing itself to the forefront of my mind.

Joy. The joy of cycling.

Each Sunday, the massive Reforma boulevard in the heart of the city is closed off to cars until 14:00. The citizens of the city take to Reforma to... go for a bike ride.

I've been on bike rides in many cities over the past couple of years but for some reason the experience in Mexico City last week was simplified and yet poignant. When riding in the very inspiring Critical Mass in Budapest you are actutely aware that there is a purpose overshadowing the simple art of going for a bike ride. There is politics and societal change on a big ol' soapbox. Which is great, sure, but in Mexico City it was just... a bike ride.

Thousands of people enjoying the simple joy of cycling. Not out to prove anything, not intent on being seen and keen to show off their 'gear' or what have you. Just families, friends, couples riding up and down the boulevard.

I can't actually remember experiencing this sensation before on my copenhagenize travels. Perhaps the bike ride in La Rochelle, France comes close, but it is still far off the mark.

Reforma Sunday Smile
This smile from one of four young friends on funky bicycles says it all. Summed up right there.

Reforma Sunday Family Reforma Sunday Crowd_1
Reforma Sunday Father Daughte Reforma Sunday Family Crowd
The number of families, large and small, was amazing. So many kids, too. Reforma has a the smoothest, newest asphalt surface so it was wonderful to ride on.

The idea stems from Bogotá, where these closed off streets have been happening for a few years. It's a brilliant idea and a great step on the way to reestablishing the bicycle on the urban landscape. I have heard, however, that the police in Bogotá are now confiscating bicycles from people who don't wear a helmet. [No reports of car confiscations for automotive traffic violations]. So thanks, Bogotá, for the previous inspiration. Hope you enjoyed your stay in the urban cycling spotlight. Shame you have to go.

Reforma Sunday Piggyback Reforma Sunday Father and Daughter 2
Here's my friend Peter handing out a flyer for the Dreams on Wheels exhibition to a father and daughter. And, on the right, a dad on a Kickbike giving his daughter a push.

The street is closed to traffic but there are a couple of massive roundabouts where we had to stop for cross traffic. I'm guessing we had a stretch of about 4 km to ride on, not including the traffic calmed old town up near Zocalo. Eight lanes of take-it-easy and enjoy-the-ride goodness in the splendid Mexican sun. Far from any destructive and virtually pornographic obsession with safety.

Reforma Sunday Pink Trike Reforma Sunday Trike
I loved seeing the great numbers of kids on trikes or bikes with training wheels out with their mums and dads.
Reforma Sunday Chopper Heaven
Bicycle-wise, there was the wildest collection of bikes to be seen. Old cruisers, chunky mountain bikes, Chinese workhorse bikes, you name it. And, like above, an astonishing number of retro-chopper bikes, like right out of my childhood. Unbelievable.

Reforma Sunday I Bike CPH
And the ever-present I Bike CPH t-shirt.
Reforma Sunday Dog
And dogs in baskets.
Reforma Sunday Standing Room
And the occasional new bike from Mexico City's recently launched Ecobici bike share programme.

Ah. The simple joy of going for a bike ride.

4 comments:

didrik said...

Mmmmmmm. Just going for a bike ride. I remember those days. When riding your bike was just that and not a revolution or athletic accomplishment or daredevil stunt. Will they ever return to the masses?

lagatta à montréal said...

¡Maravilloso!

didirk mmmmmm indeed. Not that I have anything about actual athletes' accomplishments - on the contrary, I'm a keen fan of the leg of the Women's World Cup that runs here, the Criterium right in my neighbourhood (Petite Italie).

But being a 50-something woman who has really improved my mobility (bout of painful and debilitating arthritis) by stepping up my cycling to include harder "rides" as well as commutes and errands is an accomplishment too. And I can't think of a nicer accomplishment than all those lovely padres y madres so lovingly helping their little ones master their trikes or bikes.

A colleague who lives in Mexico (DF) says the traffic is utterly death-defying and can scarcely dream of making that huge city cyclable - but I think that is one of the best motivations for "Sueños sobre ruedas". One can't seriously contemplate a world of ecological and social justice without cities where the humble bicycle is a key mode of transport ... and of pleasure. We imagine families, romantic couples, bands of friends young and old - the associations are so dreamy.

Mikael, I'm sure you'll have more about how to get from here (kof, kof) to there?

Adrienne Johnson said...

It is a shame you were not in SF for a Sunday Streets. It is very much the same- streets closed off for no other reason to give the people space to ride and play. It is glorious every time : )

I still miss Mexico... thanks for the shots!

perlita said...

And this is just Mexico City, you have to come to Guadalajara and see the Cycle Chic here..

Nice shots.