Headed to Guadalajara to meet my sister city

Posted by on February 4th, 2009 at 12:12 pm

How’s this for last-minute plans?

John Cardenas, president of the Portland Guadalajara Sister City Association (PGSCA), asked me last week if I’d like to join them on an upcoming trip to Guadalajara. They’re leaving Tuesday of next week and one of the agenda items for the trip is to share information about bikes in Portland.

Me? Make a presentation? In Guadalajara? Next week? Sure, why not?!

I first met John through his other job (he works at the PDC and I worked with him on a video about the handmade bike exhibition at the Portland Airport) and I was barely aware of the PGSCA before yesterday. Turns out the PGSCA has been around for 25 years and they’re Portland’s most active sister city (Portland has 17 of them).

Story continues below



Jesus Carlos was one of
several folks from Guadalajara
who attended the Carfree
Cities Conference held at PSU
back in June.
His shirt reads, “Barato,
Saludable, No Contamina,” which
I think translates to “Cheap,
Healthy, and Clean”.
(Photo © J. Maus)

The trip I’ll be joining them on (from 2/10 – 2/15) is to their semi-annual economic development meeting in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico. The trip will focus specifically on “multi-modal transportation systems, urban planning and economic development.”

My job on the trip (besides of course posting dispatches and photos to BikePortland) will be to give a presentation (on Thursday and Friday) and hold a Q & A about Portland’s bike culture, history, and future. I’ll be sharing my knowledge with the Guadalajara Department of Transportation and the University of Guadalajara’s Urban Planning Graduate class.

Also in the delegation are architect Mario Espinosa, engineer Kevin Larson, PSU instructor Cynthia Gomez, and others.

Cardenas said the folks in Guadalajara are very keen on becoming a major bike city and that my presence will fit into their ongoing “Urban Mobility Program” (or “Movilidad Urbana”, I’m working on my accent). According to a one-pager Cardenas sent me about the program,

“….the City of Guadalajara is playing an instrumental political role in creating non motorized forms of transportation by:

    1. Modifying urban development plans
    2. Recouping public spaces
    3. Generating a non polluting public source of transportation
    4. Favor multi-modal forms of transportation
    5. Promote and encourage sustainable life styles

To that end, we are creating a Informational Exchange Program with the appropriate agencies and other partners with the goal of integrating and implementing a car-free, multi-modal transportation system.”

I’m excited about the trip and grateful for the PGSCA for the opportunity to share what I know about Portland’s bike story. Stay tuned for reports from Mexico!

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Adams Carroll (News Intern)Erik RybergChris BK'TeshJeff Bernards Recent comment authors
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You are indeed a lucky fella.

One concept I hope you’ll help familiarize Americans with is “topas.” I don’t know if that’s how you spell it, but it’s pronounced that way phonetically. They’re similar to speed bumps, but much bigger. They require you to slow down much more, and they’re all over in parts of Mexico.

They even put them on highways that run through little towns. Instead of a sign that says “25 mph ahead,” they just put a giant slab of concrete in the road (with a warning sign) that will rip the axle off your vehicle if you hit it at any faster than 5 mph. Now that’s serious traffic control! I would love to see one in front of every crosswalk on Tacoma St in Sellwood!!

Adams Carroll (News Intern)

thanks for the tip a.O.

Anyone else have ideas of bike/transportation -related things I should watch for?


Maus…take your particle mask..the air quality there is 100% atrocious…brown sky.
if you fly into the city during the day you’ll see it out the plane window….
other than that..have a good time.
take a flight or bus ride over to Puerto Vallarta if you have time…then either head north up the coast to Sayulita or take a water ferry down to Yelapa..
nice days trips.


very cool. have fun on your trip talking about bikes.


a.O you got the spelling right. The beauty of Spanish. If you can say it correctly you can spell it correctly. Good Luck and remember the police in the brown shirts are okay to question, but not the ones in the blue shirts or you’ll end up like Rev. Phil 😉


Well GDL is a nice city and its nice and warm here now. You will note that there is a very different biking culture here as car drives will run you off the road. Currently the downtown historical area is all torn up as they are replacing road pavement and sidewalks. (no new bike lanes are being put in thou….) There is one stretch of bike lanes along Ave Federalismo. You will note if you see it that is raised to the level of the sidewalk so that cars will not park in it and drivers will not run you off the road. It’s a shame more people don’t use it. But it does not lead anywhere and it is not connected to a bike path network. Hopefully you can have some input and influence with that. Another problem is the culture. People who have cars are considered “affluent” and therefore like to drive their cars. As a general rule only poorer people actually use bikes as a means of transportation. If you are here on a Sunday you will see many many people on bikes on Ave Juarez as the street is closed to automobile traffic, lots of people have bikes but only uses them Sunday mornings. See Utube via recreativa. Enjoy your trip and enjoy Guadalajara !

Jesus Carlos

It’s spelled “topes”, the “tope” is famous here in México, all the description is correct!

I’m that guy with the bike t-shirt at the Portland conference last summer (i’m member of Ciudad para Todos wich is also member of the Carfree network), and I live in Guadalajara, so feel free to mail me for info about places to visit (if you like the beach i recomend Michoacan, 4 hrs from city), and if you need a bike, or to meet the bike groups here, the bike rides, etc.



I haven’t been to Guadalajara in many, many years, but last I remember, drivers don’t obey traffic signals and as a cyclist you really put your life on the line to ride. Hence why topes were even put in place. Not to mention I never saw any bike lanes. But this was 15 years ago, and many things have changed I’m sure. It’s a big city–I believe it’s one of the top five in Mexico–so all the rules that apply to big cities, apply here. Be aware and don’t be flashy. Should be fun.

Jeff Bernards
Jeff Bernards

I have about 20 bike light sets left over from my participation in “Get Lit”, if you want to take some down and pass out. Let me know


Have a fun, Safe, and Productive Time!

Chris B
Chris B

Jonathan, if you want a little more beta drop me a line. I lived in GUAD for a semester and was there recently for a bike/ped conference-meeting-thingy.

GUAD is an amazing, beautiful city and la gente are stunningly friendly. Have a great time and be prepared to skip a lot of sleep.

Erik Ryberg

Hey Jonathan,

I spent two weeks in Mexico City last December/January, and bought a bicycle while there. I recommend you take or buy a bike and ride it around. It was a lot less frightening than I thought it would be, and a great way to see the city. Also, Mexico City has made very expensive and serious efforts to accommodate bicyclists, including a massive street-closure every month for bicycling, and a not-quite-as-massive one every week right through downtown. Thousands of people take advantage of this and the city rents bikes for free, including hundreds if not thousands of kids bikes. You can check it all out at my website, http://www.tucsonbikelawyer.com, where I reported nearly every day at the end of January from Mexico. Have fun!

Adams Carroll (News Intern)

thanks everyone for your tips and offers. I’m looking forward to getting down there.

unfortunately my plane leaves on Sunday morning so, unless I can change it to a later flight, I will miss the via recreativa.