In the long-standing annual push to bring together our best info, materials, views and tools to support Car Free Days and Car Free Actions anywhere where citizens may be thinking about something along these lines, I addressed the very first note on this to the group of young people in the city of Guadalajara with whom I spent a highly creative “car free week” last September ( See World Streets “Towards Carfree Cities X: What happened in Guadalajara from 3 to 10 September 2011?” – http://wp.me/psKUY-1S0 ). In answer to which the following editorial piece written by one of the leader’s of the 2011 events immediately came in under the transom.
Note: I have translated this article as best I can using Google and my own knowledge of Spanish (not bad), and while it is,I hope, roughly OK, it certainly could be improved. So before I post it to World Streets, I would like to ask for corrections from anyone who may have the heart and mind to do so. Click here for orignal article in Spanish. Thanks.
Pick up Your paint brushes and get the job done
- Editorial by Jesus Carlos Soto Morfin in http://adqat.org on 7 August
Tired of waiting, several members of a handful of independent citizen organizations (1) decided to paint their own bikeways, soliciting resources in the beggar’s classic style and emptying their own pockets.
The objectives were multiple:
- Improve road safety for cyclists and make them visible,
- Expose the inability of authorities to manage the city and shame them for it;
- Demonstrate that informal organizations can produce formal results and bring back cycling as a worthy means of transport in a city that has become culturally elitist and deeply committed to the myth that the car is the all-important indicator of progress, status, welfare, safety and comfort.
After months of fundraising and long working hours in a garage offered by a member of the plot, the team got on with the serious technical work involved. From the hand of planners came a technical plan and sufficient resources to get the job done.
The disobedient group chose a Sunday in January 2011 for committing the “crime”. With the support of another suspect team member who undertook the vital task of providing chilaquiles (a traditional Mexican dish based with fried corn tortillas) and orange juice, a source of energy needed for six hours of hard work under the blazing sun with the stress of honking horns, the strong smell of paint, considerable pollutoin from the nearby cars, dust inhaled, and the physical effort of traveling five kilometers with our working materials at the cock’s crow to make our mark.
(It would be great to have at least English langue sub-titles to help our non-Spanish speaking readers. This is easily done by a volunteer, using the free software package introduced by our old friends at StreetFIlms.org in New York – click here. If you have questions on this get in touch. But coraje, it is real easy and fast.)
The result was impressive: thousands of comments on the net that turned into a viral discussion along with the subsequent decision of the authorities to declare the bike path official, protected by heavy fines, a controversy over the questioning of a radio announcer who labeled the new bikeways an act of violence, a media blitz that helped push the activation of the council to invest in the physical separation and improvement of the stroke, the gut reaction (NIMBY) of some residents of a near-by subdivision …demanding immediate intervention for fear that the bikeways will generate interferences with local traffic.
But the achievement was high in self-satisfaction for those involved in the action, and the inevitable spreading of the act to other citizens with spirited enthusiasm to do something for their city. Without taking away from the initial objective: pracical road safety measures to help those already circulating on the street by bike, including notably workers and students.
And then with the second and third cycle path, the response was almost the same, and the authorities refused to accompany us. They refused to implement the Urban Mobility Plan for Non-Motorized Transport for the Guadalajara Metropolitan Area, 1500 km of bike paths and pedestrian corridors (for a metro area of 2.7 thousand square kilometers embracing almost four and a half million citizens) — the only plan of its kind in the country that the State itself had originally contracted. Not an ounce ashamed of their lost cultural integrity when they certainly should be.
The active citizenship involved in this action learned their own lesson, that they were far more alone than I had ever expected in their commitment to making their city a livable place, where their partners were the most typical bicycle users, children and young minds not yet conditioned by the traditional caste attitudes of the city. The connoisseurs of academic indicators of prosperity, harmony and sustainability distressed able to present reality, reporters, publishers and media directors sensitive to the unprecedented and significant action like this, the mother and fathers concerned about the future of their children and grandchildren.
Two years later, the first public bike path is perceived darker scenario for citizenship pushing this issue (and many others) … and find even greater resistance to change. But after overcoming the bitter drink, despair and hopelessness, it seems to conclude that health and strength recovers to a healthy lifestyle, when democracy does not work is arranged with more democratic habits. Citizen when the action itself is insufficient only be improved with more citizen action. Which means more organization, more enthusiasm, more and more effective and provocative protest.
No doubt there are tough years ahead for those who want to emerge from a coercive and authoritarian culture. Hard days too for some authorities who have understood their public function as being authorized to enforce — not to serve! Last week they took their monuments to the public. The answer is obvious: more monuments. And as is predicted, more bike paths and actions that fill the institutional void in our state of Jalisco.
Jesus Carlos Soto Morfin, Member of Ciudad para Todos – tw: @ negrosoto
(1) Ciudad para Todos, GDL en Bici, Bicitec, , students from ITESO and UdeG– and coordinated by members of each of these groups and inspired by @ carloslz and te anonymous group tuciclovia.blogspot.com
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