I love riding around the city and enjoy the freedom of being able to bike everywhere: to work, to meet up with friends, home from a party late at night or simply to get some fresh air in the park on a Sunday afternoon.
But what if you live in a city where consumption of urban public space can't be taken for granted. What if you live in a city like Guatemala City, where it's quite impossible to bike, walk or hang out and feel safe in public spaces.
From the book “Securing the City” by Kevin Lewis O'Neill and Kedron Thomas, there's especially one line that sticks to my memory: “The more people use city streets, the safer those city streets become (…). Encouraging the use of public space increases the number of people in the streets themselves, which bolsters both economic vitality and public safety.”
Well, this is in theory and I personally have absolutely no idea how it feels to not be able to bike everywhere. So what would I do if I'd live in a city like Guatemala City? Take the car? NO! I'd hang with people like Lucia, Javier and Sorush, the founders of Biketun. People with a huge amount of courage changing the things they don't like rather than just accepting them.
“We are tired of conformity and the fact that people think it is normal to not be able to interact with our own city, nature and other people. Public space has been abandoned because we fall into the conformity of living in a bubble. And you know what happens when public space is abandoned: bad grass starts to grow. When we see bad grass, we get scared and we lock ourselves up in a bubble. This increments our fear to the unknown public space… and more bad grass grows! It requires courage to cure our city, but if no one starts, who will?... and this is why we started Biketun.”
What is Biketun?
Biketun (from Bak'tun = time unit / cycle of 394 years in the ancient Maya Long Count Calendar) is a bike ride over Guatemala City to promote a change of era and lifestyle. But the part I love most about Biketun, is the passion Lucia, Javier and Sorusch put into it and simply turn the whole thing into a fun and easy-going party while having a huge impact on their city.
The first Biketun took place December 20th and from now on there will be similar rides every two month with fun (surprise) themes like the Baktun party and concert in December. Become a fan on Facebook and that goes without saying: If you are ever in Guatemala City, make sure to participate in Biketun. (You can reach out to them directly, or message us...we're super happy to make an intro).
For the founders of the bike ride is just the first step (or pedal) of many. They're working with government entities and companies in the private sector to develop and implement a holistic plan to make public spaces safe and welcoming again. “Guatemalans are like volcanoes, they take time to get fired up but once they break into a new direction their fire can either create or destroy. So it's up to us to direct this energy towards creating a better Guatemala.”