Riding the mean streets of Tijuana


Tijuana posterJust across the border from San Diego, where our cross-country bicycle ride starts Sept. 18, live some pretty brave cyclists.
Every Wednesday evening, according to a report today on National Public Radio’s Morning Edition, several hundred of them ride the mean streets of Tijuana.
More than 800 people died last year in Tijuana, many at the hands of drug traffickers, NPR reported. One of the reasons for the ride is to maintain some semblance of normality in a community riven by violence.
A more immediate concern of the Tijuana cyclists, however, judging from NPR, are “giant potholes and lots of skinny, mean dogs — not to mention clouds of thick black truck exhaust.”

Riders in the Ciclopista Tijuana

Riders in the Ciclopista Tijuana

“But the biggest road hazard.” the NPR story said, “may be the random array of those circular yellow street reflectors that just seem to sprout out of the asphalt.” They’re called bolitas matadoras, or “little killer balls,” because they can cause a rider to crash.
“The ride dates to 2004, when a half-dozen cyclists began lobbying for bike lanes in the city,” said a Nov. 30 story in The San Diego Union-Tribune. “Getting no response from government officials, they just began riding, and the numbers quickly grew. Wednesday nights proved the most convenient time, and now the ride has become a tradition.”
Every Wednesday at 7 p.m., the bicyclists, who call themselves Ciclopista Tijuana, gather outside Tijuana City Hall and ride a route of about 14 miles. The organizers, NPR said, “are sticklers for safety and follow every rule of the road. They have monitors all along the route. They stop at every red light, and everyone has to wear a helmet.”

Taking back the night in Tijuana

Taking back the night in Tijuana

On the night that NPR’s Carrie Kahn rode along, 375 cyclists participated. The record is 429.
The narco bloodshed has altered lifestyles in Tijuana, said the Union-Tribune story. “Parents order children to play inside. Teenagers have stricter curfews. Restaurants, taco stands, movie theaters and nightclubs lose customers as the city shuts down at night.”
Mario Ortiz Villacorta, a retired high school literature and philosophy teacher and the officially designated chronicler of Tijuana’s city life, told the Union-Tribune: “Violence and crime are not in the nature of Tijuanenses. We need to keep living our lives in the best possible way and not lock ourselves inside.”
The Wednesday evening bike rides are part of that effort to take back the nighttime streets.
Anyone in our group arriving early in San Diego might consider crossing the border and riding in solidarity. Or not.

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3 Comments

Filed under Cool stuff, Urban cycling

3 responses to “Riding the mean streets of Tijuana

  1. Hi, sir. Very nice blog you have, and I appreciate you reporting about the cyclists and bike riders in the city of Tijuana. Just one favor I’m asking from you: do not trust the mainstream media, as you quote: “The narco bloodshed has altered lifestyles in Tijuana, said the Union-Tribune story. ”

    I have been an amateur cycling racer and passionate cycling fanatic for long time, have been riding the streets of Tijuana for about 11 years already, and never, NEVER have had any “dangerous” encounter with narcos and bloodshed, NEVER.

    It is sad for me to hear lots of bad comments about this beautiful city that has treated me with kindness and respect. Many of the people who like to discredit Tijuana LIVE IN Tijuana and are Tijuanenses themselves, and I am against that.

    I love Tijuana with passion, and I usually bike ride between 2 and 3:30 hrs 5 days a week. Traffic is heavy sometimes but training early in the morning 5 or 6 am to start, makes it way better traffic wise.

    Thanks again for promoting cycling in Tijuana, however, I oppose kindly to the title of your post. The streets of Tijuana are not mean.

  2. betty

    Hello,
    I saw your image, inviting people to go to Tijuana and get killed; but let me tell you something;
    it is not only our problem with drug trafficking that gives Tijuana a bad image.
    What about all of you US citizens that come every weekend looking for prostitutes, getting drunk, buying drugs and all kind of painkillers in our pharmacies, throwing trash everywhere and treating mexicans as if they were inferior than you.
    Be careful with what you post, you should learn a little bit more of what YOU guys do to our city.

  3. Very well said, Betty. Thank you for defending our beautiful and kind city of Tijuana.
    You have my respect. I just hope that more Tijuanenses spoke out, like you and me.

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