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Bicicrítica in Madrid

Everyone was super friendly... lots of waving!

Madrileños, probably almost 3,000-strong, take to the streets on the last Thursday of every month for their Bicicrítica, or Critical Mass... it was wonderful!

Got to ride in Madrid’s Bicicrítica last night, a long luxurious ride all over town. It was very familiar of course, as Critical Mass rides are from place to place. Lots of “types” that I know from San Francisco, New York, and elsewhere… But here in Madrid they did two things that I haven’t seen for a while, or ever before: 1) they stopped a helluva lot to keep the mass tight. The most surprising part of this was the regular stopping for pedestrians to flow across the street, even when it divided the ride a bit and left it open to infiltration by cars. Mostly it didn’t happen, although I did see two different cars sneak across the ride in clever ways, one by weaving behind one of the small breaks quickly, and another by having the passenger get out and convince a bunch of cyclists to let the car that his wife was driving through. I don’t know what he told people, but it worked. They let that car through, and none others, in the Plaza de Bilbao. One time we waited at the front of the ride for a good 10 minutes at a crosswalk and every time a pedestrian, or a few, would cross, everyone would burst into wild applause. It was hilarious!

Applauding pedestrians in Madrid!

The other thing I hadn’t seen before was not just a bike lift, but a full-on bike wave. From the very front of the ride, everyone at a pause would squat down low and then at a certain moment the front would rise up with bikes in air, followed by the next group and next one and so on, just like a “wave” in a stadium…. it was quite fun! Here’s a video:

La Ola Madrileño

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Touring the Tidy World of Scandinavia

The sun stays up a lot later in Scandinavia... this is Stockholm around 11 pm on June 20.

Just finished 17 days of family travel in Denmark and Sweden, visiting the prominent locales of my mother’s youth around Copenhagen, my father’s family in rural western Sweden, and a long list of castles, museums, gardens, and restaurants. We ate ridiculously well and spent many nights in fine hotels, all thanks to the generosity of my dad, who decided to throw caution to the wind and make this trip a memorable blow-out. Adriana and I, my parents, and Francesca managed to share a small-ish station wagon and two hotel rooms in various configurations during these two weeks and it went about as well as any of us could have hoped. That said, it was also occasionally claustrophobic, and everyone spent at least a day being rather irritable and grouchy. Still and all, we did quite well!

My mom grew up in the building behind, top floor just to the left of the yellow awning...this is in Klampenborg, Denmark.

A quick tour on day in Copenhagen on their free public bike.

I took hundreds of photos along the way, and realized as I was going that I wasn’t going to be able to blog daily, partly because when we got to the end of each day I was always pretty tired (jet-lag is a bitch, and driving most of the way also took its toll). Also, we had such a crazily intense push to finish “Shift Happens! Critical Mass at 20” before we left that I was quite spent and just needed to be on vacation. So here instead is a long entry full of photos and captions to capture some of the experiences I had along the way.

It is endlessly satisfying to arrive in Copenhagen to the seas of bicycles everywhere! Here are countless bikes parked outside the main train station.

Routine bike traffic on Norrebrogade.

I was reading Kim Stanley Robinson’s latest novel “2312”, all 561 pages of it, during these days and it was somehow quite a good complement to the tidy landscapes, the endlessly satisfying design that shapes everything about life in Scandinavia, from bathrooms to bike lanes to museums and public squares. Robinson’s book, titled with the date 200 years in the future, is broken into many short chapters, some of which are lists and fragments and excerpts from ‘future histories’—I liked them as much as the actual story (itself divided into multiple threads). One short side chapter was on a future historian’s analysis of the epochs that start more or less now, and reach to the period two centuries later when she was writing. I thought labeling the period we’re in now, starting more or less at the dawn of the 21st century and carrying on until about 2060 as “The Dithering” was probably spot-on, though a bit discouraging too, realizing that if accurate, I’m only going to see things keep deteriorating over the years I have left… of course another great concept in Robinson’s book is that longevity has been greatly extended, so characters are living between 130-200 years pretty routinely, all taking various hormonal and other therapies to arrest the aging process. Turns out in his future that bisexuality and balanced gender hormonal complexes are key to life extension. He does a pretty interesting job of creating characters outside of the usual boring gender binaries that dominate science fiction, and puts these newly complex possibilities into a larger scientific revolution of life extension.

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Spring Cleaning

Wow. It’s been months since I got it together to blog… if you’ve been waiting, my apologies. Basically I’ve been working on a new book “Critical Mass at 20: SHIFT HAPPENS!” I’m glad to say it’ll be great, but it’s been a lot more work than any of us knew it was going to be… It will be out in time for the 20th anniversary in September 2012. Though I haven’t found time to blog, I had lots of ideas and many photos piling up during these past months so I thought I just throw a bunch of unrelated things up as a kind of “spring cleaning” to make way for more regular posts again. (I also did a huge spring cleaning on the mold in the bathroom, but that was already 7 weeks ago!)

Sunday Streets May 6, 2012, on Valencia looking south from 17th Street.

Sunday Streets last weekend was a huge success again, and it will be repeating on the first Sunday of each of the next three months here in the Mission (the neighborhood where it is most loved)…  Here’s a few more images, kids and musicians enjoying the respite from the omnipresence of automobiles… When will San Francisco finally start closing streets permanently to cars?

Cuban drummers getting down...

So many kids having so much fun!

Buye Pongo, they were really rockin' it!

Last week was May Day… A bunch of us got together back in 1998 to “Reclaim May Day” so I’m delighted to see it has taken on a major life of its own. That said, this past week’s “festivities” seemed rather anticlimactic. Partly because the union bureaucrats pulled the plug on the growing excitement that might have drawn several thousand to a morning blockade and closure of the Golden Gate Bridge. When the union leaders backed off, occupiers and other supporters dutifully followed suit. That led us in the Bike Cavalry to change our plans from riding out towards the Bridge at 7 a.m. and instead we headed downtown to support the Inland Boatman’s Union picket line behind the Ferry Building. When we got there we found our friends in the Brass Liberation Orchestra, and a fun and photogenic kayak picket line in the water.

Kayak picket line during morning IBU action on May Day 2012.

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