Tomorrow begins a journey ten years in the making. When I was 18 I first set off on my bicycle alone, travelling down the Pacific Coast. I went only with a backpack- no partner, no cell phone. That trip cracked me open. I learned of the wild beauty that is using my body to cross unimaginable distances. I learned of the sacred space that I enter while spending 10 hours a day on bike for weeks on end. I discovered an openness and curiosity that I exude from the depths of extreme solitude. Four times now, the rugged mountains of Baja California have been the backdrop for this kind of personal pilgrimage.
During the last six months, Carlos and I have delve deep into the bicycle worlds of Mexico City. 4,500 km later, I have biked with bakers, hipsters, mechanics, racers, messengers, kids, adults, tamale vendors, policy makers, activists, educators, and movers and shakers of all kinds. More than ever before, I believe in the bicycle as a tool that can be used to transform the world. From this exploration grew Todos en Bici.
Tomorrow 22 of us, cyclists from all walks of life, begin what just may be one the most experimental and curious group journeys to roll through the Baja California desert. We will dive deep into the perspective of each individual and through participatory story telling build and communicate the space of our collective imagination and perception.
Let our restless curiosity constantly guide us.
Thanks for the love and support.
Every time we hop on our bikes and explore town, we are always on the lookout for people who demonstrate a unique connection with their bicycle. This week we have connected with several exciting cyclists and groups who will be featured in our En Bici project. In the coming weeks will be following these folks on their journeys--filming them, mapping their travels, and interviewing them.
We'll be blogging periodically as the project evolves!
Today we hear from Carlos:
It is almost the end of our third week here in Mexico City, and our En Bici project is off to a strong start! Mikey and I have finally finished setting up the basics in order to move forward: we have a working website and blog, business cards, social media accounts, project t-shirts and, most importantly, our own BIKES! Mikey shipped his from California, and I was able to purchase a used bike through an awesome online exchange group.
With all of that in line, we have now been able to explore the city on two wheels… and let me tell you, it is just AWESOME. The central areas of the city are quite flat, which makes biking around very comfortable and fast. Just the other night we made the trip from La Roma to Coyoacán in about 12 minutes (when some people even dread making the trip by car). Not only has it been much easier to move around, but now that we are official bikers in la Ciudad de México, it has also been very easy to strike up conversation with potential interviewees for the documentary. Our desire to explore and portray the diversity and multiplicity of biking cultures in DF is so much more exciting now that we have experienced the actually overwhelming diversity of the biking ecosystem here: young commuters, old commuters, tandem bikes, tamale businesses, coconut water stands, doggie carts pulled by bikes, eccentric bike frames, cheap bikes, new bikes, old bikes… you name it.
This level of diversity was evident at the weekly event “Muévete en Bici,” which takes place every Sunday when city government closes off traffic on ~55 kilometers of road around the city. What ensues is an amazingly orchestrated biking circuit that allows people to bike safely and freely on some of Mexico City’s busiest roads. Excited for this, we woke up early on a Sunday morning and were able to experiment with our equipment and film on the road for the first time. Our different tools allow different kinds of filming, and we have enjoyed capturing action with the GoPro head mount, sneaky shots with the iPhone, and more sophisticated takes with the Nikon. After chatting up bikers and experimenting with film, we devoured some giant delicious burgers and we were the happiest of campers.
We have also been working on the formal survey that we will begin distributing next week. This way we will start gathering important qualitative data, which paired with the quantitative numbers we gather through GPS are going to make up the bulk of information we lay out in the official project report.
So, wahoo! This is really exciting, and a lot of people here in Mexico City are feeding the project with lots of good energy… so stay tuned! On a closing note, I wanted to express that I have actually been enormously impressed with so many of the city’s urban initiatives. The level of urbanism that is practiced here in Mexico City is above everything I have witnessed in other Latin American cities, and I can’t wait to continue exploring it.
We'll be blogging periodically as the project evolves! Today, we hear from Mikey:
Several months ago Carlos and I applied for a fellowship with the Mexican Cities Initiative (MCI) at Harvard GSD. We have collaborated before on design projects and competitions and saw this as a great opportunity to unite our creative energies around topics that are of deep interest to each of us. These topics include alternative forms of urban mobility and bicycling as a tool of urban resilience.
For me this project resonates with some of my most salient passions. My bike is a lens through which I understand the world. My bike is my mobility. My bike is how I get my groceries and how I cross a continent. Over the past decade, I have biked over 18,000 miles (29,000 km), touring across Mexico and the United states and cruising across cities in which I live. My bike is the only inanimate object I own that harbors a soul of sorts. When I am riding, we are seamless. It is an extension of my body, grounded wings. When I was young, biking was the first opportunity I had to move about my town independently off radar. It was and still is a subversive act. I enjoy being a novelty and an anomaly. Growing up in the suburbs it was being the only kid that biked 17 miles round trip to school. Living in the city as a graduate student it was being that crazy guy that moves furniture and lumber across the city on his bike. Touring across the country it was being a wild loner that would pass through rural 20-person towns asking around about a place to pitch my tent. As a biker, I am almost always on roads, roads which were built to serve cars and the like. The ability to use my bike to hack and adapt existing infrastructure not originally intended for my own use as a biker is a pure thrill. It is an act of appropriation that opens to me a seemingly infinite network of roads and ribbons of exploration.
There is a collective pulse that each bicyclist contributes to uniquely. Over the years I have connected with and contributed to this pulse. The collective nature of it is made possible by the openness of the bike. On a bike, there is not a sphere of glass and metal separating one from the world around. Bikers are exposed and vulnerable, their speed is humane and body-generated, and it is this that fosters a collective understanding, appreciation, and camaraderie. Our project, En Bici, seeks to interrogate and discover many of the distinct elements that are pushing, pulling, tugging, nurturing, and creating this beat. The means and methods we have developed for our structured exploration aim to bring us into the core of various bicycles cultures that co-exist within the city. Our process is in the name, En Bici - On Bike. We are connecting with bicyclists across the city and following them on their daily journeys mapping, interviewing, and filming all the while.
We arrived less than a week ago and since landing we have been settling into our studio and walking miles and miles every day exploring the neighborhood. Most importantly we have been laying out all the groundwork so that this upcoming week we can begin engaging cyclists. This past month we have been researching and acquiring equipment for the film and mapping elements of the project. This week we have finished our website and are excited to launch it. It will be a key tool in helping us to communicate our research and maintain connections with the people we will be engaging. We have designed a logo and information cards as well, that are being printed by a local press. The cards enable us to connect with cyclists on the fly and share our project widely. We have also designed En Bici jerseys with our website on our back. This way, whenever biking through congested Mexico City, the people we cruise past will have a chance to connect with the project as well. The wheels are in motion and the project is ready to roll.