+ Bikes – Smog

Biciaccion from Quito, Ecuador is organizing a campaign called ‘+ Bicis, – Smog’ focused on the air quality of Quito. In the video, the group is chalking in a big tunnel in the city, and its walls are black from the smog of the cars and buses that circulate there everyday. They propose more bikes as a way forward in cleaning up the air quality of Quito.

This campaign really reminds me of BiciRed‘s campaign called ‘Hazla de Tos’ (Make Them Cough), which is being coordinated across Mexico. Recently there was an action where groups created fake graveyards to signify the number of people who die form air quality related illnesses every year in Mexico.

Interesting to see many groups across Latin America organizing around biking and air quality. Definitely interested to talk to folks about this at the forum.

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In Memory of Elena: Carishina Feminista

(tradducion abajo)

Earlier this week my friend Elena passed away. Elena was one of the most incredible people I’ve ever known. She was an outspoken radical, anarchist feminist, and an inspiring bike organizer. She could talk to anyone; she could talk to people with machista views about feminism in a way that both got them to see her point, and made them laugh. She was tough and a fighter in a way I admire and aspire to, and brought enthusiasm to everything she did – from community organizing with Amazonian tribes, to organizing with the Carishinas, to playing bike polo.

Elena holds a really special place in my heart for a lot of reasons. I first met Elena at the very first Carishina Race where she came in close to last, but you could see that that night had changed her life. It was the first time she’d ridden her bike in the city, in traffic, and there was no going back from there. The next time I met her she came to a mechanic workshop I was teaching, and was the most enthusiastic participant there. She would stay late and ask questions, and was the first person to ever ask me how to get involved with organizing with Carishina en Bici. When I left Quito I handed over the Carishina collective to her and some friends, and she became one of the primary organizers for the collective for the last three years.

It’s hard to express exactly how much awe and inspiration I draw from Elena. I have met maybe a handful of women with whom I truly believe that we are working towards the same world, and that we see gender bike organizing as working towards that shared vision. Elena is one of those people. I felt like our minds were in sync with how organizing around bike feminism moved us closer to the world we envisioned. It’s a really amazing feeling to feel so connected to someone through a shared goal – and it’s a really unique feeling than being connected to people in other ways. So now that Elena has passed away, the best way I can think to honor her memory and her spirit is to continue to organize women on bikes to work towards that vision.

Over the last three years Elena and I had a lot of conversations about what bike feminism meant to us, and how it fit into our work. I think of feminism as a way of looking at how various forms of oppression intersect – sexism, racism, classism, homophobia, transphobia, ageism, etc – and how paths of empowerment and liberation are also linked. Bike feminism is how these paths of oppression and liberation can be linked to something tangible – the bicycle- and how bike organizing can be a tool to empower oppressed communities and to work towards social change. It’s about taking big ideas and using a bike as a way of making tangible steps forward, moving towards a more horizontal, equal, and just world. Bike feminism is inherently radical, at times confrontational, and begins to seep into every aspect of your life.

Elena never shied away from that. She never shied away from saying she was a feminist, a radical, an anarchist, and bike feminism did begin to seep into every part of her life and her person.  I so admire her sense of purpose, and the energy she devoted to these bigger aims. And so for everyone who has been lucky enough to be touched by Elena in their life, I hope that we can all think about what she stood for, and think about what we’re doing to make that world possible.

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Continue reading “In Memory of Elena: Carishina Feminista”

Carishina en Bici Manifest

I was checking out the Carishina en Bici blog the other day, and came across this manifest they uploaded to express who they are, what they do, and how Carishina en Bici fits into how they envision a better world (translation below). I think it’s a creative way to summarize a lot of their ideals and optimism in one, easy to read flow-chart thing.

I could talk and write about Carishina en Bici just about all day, every day (check out this one, this one, or this one). I’m so proud of everything that this organization is, and all the work that they do to get more women riding in Quito. I can’t wait until I’m reunited with them (sometime soon I hope), and in the meantime I hope they all know I’m sending them long-distance bike love.

manifiestocarishinesco

rough translation: Who are we? woman + bikes in quito ecuador = Carishina en Bici with no limits to age, religion, political tendencies  or nationalities. We are volunteers (and want to keep being volunteers) that dream that bikes as a mode of transportation have the capacity to empower women. 1. We want to spread joy, independence, and liberty (the fun is between your legs) to many, many women. 2. We want to create a just and humane society. We dream about more smiles on the street, and empowering people to use public space as a way to relate ourselves to peace, visibility, solidarity, coexistence, and other beautiful things. And you – are you a Carishina en Bici?

Organizing and Action around Cyclist Deaths

In the last few weeks, two cyclists were killed in bike communities that I really care about – Sebas Munoz in Quito, Ecuador and Elyse Stern in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Elyse was hit by a drunk driver, and Sebas was hit by a driver going over 100 mph in a 30 mph speed limit zone. Both drivers abandoned the scene.

Both of these sad deaths have gotten me to think a lot about those communities, bike safety, and what happens next. I am feeling far from both those communities, but especially far from Quito and wanting to be with friends there, because Sebas was a friend, and co-bike organizer.

Some people I’ve spoken to in Quito are struggling with mourning their friend’s untimely death, while simultaneously feeling inspired and motivated to organize around his death. Sebas was one of the organizers of the collective Andando en Bici Carajo (ABC), which has been the main group in Quito to install ghost bikes and organize rides to raise awareness around cyclist fatalities. But I don’t think ABC ever imagined that they would be doing these same events for one of their own.

Some people from Quito have asked me what other bike groups around the world do in reaction to cyclists killed on the road. In response to this question, I’ve been keeping track of what people in Quito and Minneapolis are doing to commemorate Sebas and Elyse. Similarly both communities are organizing rides, ghost bikes, and campaigns of public awareness.

I think these rides and ghost bikes are important, and help to constructively organize a community around a loss, but recently I’ve also become interested in the route of legal action (which is not normally my preferred form of action). After reading this article in Urban Velo about the logic of drivers blaming cyclists, I’ve been thinking about how to change the law to better protect cyclists and pedestrians.

For example, here in Germany whenever a person driving hits a cyclist the driver automatically receives at least 30% of the blame for the accident. Regardless of whether or not the cyclist was blatantly at fault, the driver will receive at least 30% of the blame, and in most cases, where the cyclist is not obviously at fault, the driver will receive 100% of the blame. Now that shows a societal commitment to cyclist safety.

I have never felt as safe riding a bike as I do riding in Berlin. Almost every street has separated bike lanes that have consistent bike traffic, and it is remarkable how cautious and aware drivers are of cyclists. I am normally nervous when I am going straight in a bike lane, and see a car about to turn right, but every time this has happened here, the driver has slowed down, looked up the bike lane to see who is there, and then reacted appropriately. Now I think there are many factors contributing to this, mainly the number of cyclists and their visibility, but I also think that a legal framework that protects cyclists encourages cautious driving.

In the case of Elyse, the police were able to find and arrest the driver, but last I heard the police in Quito have yet to find the person who killed Sebas. If these drivers are brought to court, what will happen? In the US and Ecuador the legal precedent is not encouraging. So as Minneapolis and Quito react to the deaths of fellow cyclists, I think it’d be good to use the momentum of community action to also pressure politicians to change laws to better protect cyclists. And yes, I realize I am saying that like it’s an easy task, which it’s not.

Not sure who designed this, but I think credit goes to Luis Herrera
Not sure who designed this, but I think credit goes to Luis Herrera

Here is a link to a video about Sebas. Quito lost one of their most quietly determined organizers, a talented artist, and a loyal friend.

Video

Hadas Madrinas en Bici Programming Guide

I am very proud and excited to present the Hadas Madrinas en Bici (Fairy Godmothers on Bike) Programming Guide. This is a programming guide to the big sister/little sister program stared by the Carishina en Bici collective in Quito Ecuador. This past summer, with the help with a grant from the Davis Projects for Peace Foundation, I was able to return to Quito to help work with this project, and I am really proud of what Carishina en Bici has created. This guide is intended for any type of organization/collective/non-profit/group of friends who sees a need in their community to mentor inexperienced cyclists, and is looking for a structure or an idea of how to fill that need.

The basic idea of the program is to pair together one experienced big-sister cyclist with an inexperienced (ranging from no experience on a bike to recreational biker) little sister cyclist. Ideally they will live in similar parts of the city and will work together weekly on everything from learning how to ride a bike to learning how use their bike as a form of transportation. All you need is some time, volunteers, and people who want to learn!

In the guide I wrote about how we have organized this project, but there are many ways to organize this, and we would love to answer questions and hear your feedback. We treat this project as a constant work in progress, and we’re always working to improve the structure. So far this project has had some pretty incredible results, and created many more confident female cyclists in Quito. We think that working in pairs creates a sustainable, decentralized project that can be replicated in a variety of contexts.

Please help spread the word, and circulate the guide to anyone you know who might be interested!

Hadas Madrinas Guide english

Video by LaPulgada of El Sur en Bici, Quito, Ecuador

This last summer I made a video and wrote a blog post about the geography of Quito. I talked a bit about how a mountain in the middle of Quito acts as both a physical and social barrier between the north and the south.  In the past a lot of bike organizing in Quito was concentrated in Northern Quito, but in the last year a new collective called El Sur en Bici (The South by Bike) have been organizing a variety of events around biking. They organize rides, bike polo, and alley-cats always with an eye to being as inclusive across race, gender, age, and class as possible. They are an awesome group doing amazing organizing to help bridge the geographic gap in bike organizing in Quito. This video shows off what they are doing, and how much fun they’re having.

Carishina Race re-cap!

On March 12th, 2010 I organized the first Carishina Race in Quito.  It was the first alley-cat for women in Quito, and I told myself that if 8 teams raced that I would consider it a sucess.  That first race 33 teams raced (teams of 2), and I was blown away by the amount of women who were so excited about the race and biking.  That race kicked off the Carishinas en Bici collective, which now includes about 7 projects, but the Carishina Race continues to be one of the biggest and most popular projects.

While I was in Quito (round 1), I organized 3 races, but this past Saturday was the first time that I ever participated in one.  I raced with my friend Elena, who is one of the principal organizers of Carishina en Bici. We had a blast! It was so much fun to participate in the race and see it from a racers perspective after organizing it.  Every time we passed other teams on the street we would yell things like “Carishinaaaaaa!” or “You got it!” or other supportive things. It was such an amazing atmosphere to see the streets filled with 100 women racing, in crazy costumes, doing ridiculously funny stops, and just generally having the time of my life.

The race was called the “Eco-Carishina Race” and most of the stops were environmentally themed.  The girls who organized it this time did a great job in coming up with creative stops, a fun route, and organizing it all in a way that kept the atmosphere fun, non-competitive, and supportive to new riders. Most importantly the after party was a blast, and we danced until we couldn’t dance anymore.

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Our route is in purple (again showing off my graphic design skills).  Where the race started is the green oval, the red ovals are the stops, and the yellow oval is where the race ended.

The stops (in the order that Elena and I did them):

  • First, we had to get the manifest which was hidden inside a huge park, and clipped to a string pretty high up where we had to hoist each other up in order to get the manifest.
  • We had to use a recycled bottle as a candle holder, light a candle, and then carry the lit candle about 200 meters across a park to a ghost bike.  At the end of the night the ghost bike had 50 candles infront of it.
  • Went to an intersection and had to come up with a song that had woman, air, bike, and freedom in the lyrics, and then sing the song to a car stopped at a red light.
  • Go to a park and fill out a questionnaire about what type of bike infrastructure you would like to see in Quito.
  • Go to a restaurant where you and your partner had to feed each other ice cream while both of you had your eyes closed (one of my favorite stops! I couldn’t stop laughing).
  • Go to a collective stop where everyone participating in the race had to be there at 8pm to film a short video where everyone biked under this big statue in pairs calling out the names of their teams, and then everyone at the end yelled one of the Carishina chants which more or less says “carishinas en bici. who said fear? we ride in the streets with our ovaries in the right place!”
  • Identify bike parts at a bike shop.
  • Walk towards your partner on a slackline and at the end say “Basalto ama a las Carishinas en Bici”
  • Read a sign about one of the oldest trees in Quito with a cup of water in your mouth (really really difficult!)
  • Go to a bike shop and use one of the bicimaquinas (that I wrote about earlier) to make recycled paper. You had to grind up the paper and then use silk screens to make paper.
  • Go to a park and plant a tree.
  • Bring fruit to a stop where you used a bike blender to make some juice and then drink it.

All in all it was an amazing race, and I had so so much fun.  I unfortunately don’t have any pictures (hopefully I’ll have a video up somewhat soon), but if you sign into facebook you should check out these beautiful black and white pictures.