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Design and Architecture

Baja Funk, Women Cyclists

May 9, 2018 • 9:00 AM PT
Design and Architecture

Baja Funk, Women Cyclists

May 9, 2018 • 9:00 AM PT

As tensions simmer along the US-Mexican border, we look at cross-border design collaborations between San Diego and Tijuana. And does gender determine where you ride a bike? We’ll hear about efforts to get more women into cycling, and whether "bro culture" affects the planning of bicycle lanes.

Baja Funk: Cross-border design in Tijuana and San Diego 11 MIN, 40 SEC

While the Trump administration warns of a so-called “caravan” of Central Americans trying to come north, there’s reverse flow as well. Tijuana has become a hotbed of design, and cross-border collaborations are increasing.

“It seems that more people, especially on the American side, are hungrier to support cross-border things and go over the border as almost like an ‘F U’ to Trump,” said Alan Lilienthal, a musician based in San Diego and Tijuana and part of a binational hip-hop group called Tulengua. “It seems like it has pressurized the community to be like, ‘oh, Tijuana is right there.’ More San Diegans, especially creative youths, are mindful of that and are supporting artists on the other side of the border more.”

Alan’s brother Itamar Lilienthal makes furniture and products, also on both sides of the border.

“Each side has its own unique identity and unique skills you could say. In Tijuana you have incredibly artistic artisans and manufacturing jobs that if you're building furniture or you’re building products, you have access to that in San Diego. You have really good, not only funding, but you have just really creative clients and opportunities that come about from the California side,” said Itamar. “So it was really this idea of using design to not only foster more cross-border collaboration but through cross-border collaboration, create more sustainable products.”

Itamar was part of a Mexican design pop-up in LA called NERO 48. It took place in a newly finished, upscale rental building at Fairfax and San Vicente. You could wander through show-apartments where they were showcasing contemporary homewares, art, furniture and fashion from Tijuana and beyond.

Now, Tijuana came into being largely because of its location at the US border. It was a party destination during prohibition and then later a hub for maquiladoras. Ten years ago, after the economic collapse, things got very bad. But designers and artists and chefs began to take back the city.

Itamar Lilienthal makes a cushion called a bombo out of recycled material, buckwheat hulls and an inflatable air bladder. He says he had larger goals than simply to provide seat support.

“The beauty of that is it's all made in what I call Las Californias. And that means that the air bladder itself is made here in LA. All the fabrics that we use are the deadstock are those surplus fabrics from local upholsterers. And then all the labor itself, all the finishing touches is made half of it in Chula Vista which is the south of San Diego and half in Tijuana.”

His brother Alan Lilienthal hopes to create unity with music. He plays in a binational hip-hop group called Tulengua, and their forthcoming mixtape is called “Baja Funk.”

So what is the emerging Tijuana aesthetic?

Itamar described it as “finding trash, making it beautiful, and transforming it to the point that you can't even tell it was trash to begin with.”

Alan added that it’s less of an “external physical aesthetic,” and “more unified by a psychology and an approach” that is “extremely resourceful, using whatever you have, waste, trash whatever it is, to make beautiful things. It's also very resilient and strong willed.”

“I think there is a big warrior spirit in the young creative class of Tijuana that is hungry to establish itself as way more than its historic reputation as a city of vices,” Alan added. “The young people in Tijuana -- and in San Diego too -- are very hungry to show the world that... there is really some beautiful things happening.”


An advertisement for the bombo, a cushion sold by Casa Tamarindo, a binational design house based in San Diego and Tijuana. Photo Courtesy of Casa Tamarindo.

Guests:
Itamar Lilienthal, Founder and creative director of Casa Tamarindo, a binational design house based in San Diego and Tijuana
Alan Lilienthal, Musician in bilingual music group Tulengua
Illya Haro, Independent art curator, and co-curator of NERO48 Pop-Up Store (@nero48store)

More:
Is Tijuana Mexico’s New Capital of Cool?
Tijuana-wood? City boosters say it should have a sign of its own.
A cross-border city? Apartments for San Diegans in Tijuana? How architects defy Trump’s wall.

Identity in Design: Paving the Way for More Women Cyclists 16 MIN, 26 SEC

If roads are to be safer for cyclists, bicycle commuting needs to be normalized, say experts, and that means encouraging a wide range of people to cycle. And that includes women, who are far outnumbered by men on the road.

DnA explores some of the reasons for this, among them the dominance of “bro culture,” and the planning of bike lanes, which are being put on LA’s arterial streets.

Even with painted bikeways, cycling alongside fast cars, buses and trucks has been found to be intimidating to many people except “fast and fearless” cyclists, who tend to be overwhelmingly male.


In 2009, women accounted for just 24 percent of bicycle trips in the United States. Compare that to other countries such as the Netherlands, where women account for 55 percent of bike trips; in Germany, it’s 49 percent.

“Women in particular are more averse to traffic turbulence, let's call it. We’re willing to go out of our way to get a quieter street, or slower street, even if it means we add a little bit of extra distance to our commute,” said Seleta Reynolds, general manager of the Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT).

Reynolds argues that a movement of “vehicular cyclists” in the 1970s and 80s argued that bicycles should be allowed to share the streets with cars.

“Those folks figured out how to infiltrate and influence the committees on major institutions that make the design guidelines, that write the book on how we design bike lanes in the U.S., and they were mostly male and they were mostly in that ‘fast and fearless’ group of cyclists.”

The other contributor to putting bikes on arterials is that transportation funding to build bike facilities comes through the frame of emissions reduction.

“In order to demonstrate that your project is worthy you have to show that you are taking cars off the road and thereby reducing emissions,” Reynolds said.

Of course, it’s from the busy arterials that you get the biggest bang for your buck in terms of reducing cars and emissions.

But the department is working on “a whole new wave of designs for people biking and walking” that want calmer routes, explains Reynolds, and that includes creating a Greenway Network through LA’s quieter, residential streets.

“But where the neighborhood greenway network always falls apart is when you have to then swim across the wide river of a fast arterial street. And so that means that we need to put in things like you know signals and other sort of things that make it easier and more comfortable to get across that route.”

Reynolds says she’s looking “block by block and neighborhood by neighborhood and it takes a very thoughtful approach. But when we have you know as many people as many women biking as we do men in L.A. Then I will know that we have been successful at designing a system that really works for everybody.”

There are other factors impacting women’s decision to ride a bike and one of them is clothing.

Nona Varnado explains that where men give little thought to what to wear, women worry about how they will appear on arrival at work or a date.

If that’s a challenge now, think of what it was like in late 19th century Victorian England, when the bicycle was first invented.

Pedal power was hugely attractive to women who could afford a bicycle -- because it represented freedom!

But it wasn’t made easy for them. According to Dr Katrina Jungnickel, “onlookers often hurled abuse and stones at female cyclists, while conservative social attitudes meant that it was unacceptable to appear in public wearing trousers.”


The pioneering outfits remade by Kat Jungnickel. Photo by Charlotte Barnes.

Jungnickel is the author of a new book called “Bikes & Bloomers: Victorian Women Inventors and their Extraordinary Cycle Wear.” She writes about the astonishing patented inventions dreamed up by women who were determined to ride a bike, without the limitations of clothing typical of their day: “a long full length skirt, up to seven pounds of heavy layered petticoats, tightly laced corsets, tailored blouses, vests, jackets, gloves, veils and more.”

They created a type of convertible bicycle wear and a Brixton dressmaker, Alice Bygrave, invented a garment with a pulley system, in which cords could pull on a weighted hem and lift the skirt up for riding. Jungnickel and her team actually made the outfits from original patterns, and described it as a “skirtain.”

It would seem those days are behind us but some women feel full acceptance on bikes is still out of reach, because of what some see as a dominant “bro culture” in cycling.

Reynolds agrees that cycling tends to be a “very muscular male culture, it is about how fast your time is on Strava, it is about bike messenger culture, that's really what it grew out of.”

She concludes that everyone will benefit if street cycling ceases to be “tribal’ and instead is “normalized,” as in other countries where a bicycle is simply a form of transport like a car, bus, train or plane.

“And since the tribe is mostly made up of men right now, I think it is hard for women to feel comfortable and that's why you see a lot of intentional work by some of the best bike advocacy groups in the country around how to get women into cycling…. there's great work happening but there's I think a pretty long way to go.”

Guests:
Seleta Reynolds, Los Angeles Department of Transportation (@seletajewel)
Nona Varnado, Executive director of Bicycle Culture Institute and founder of LA Bike Trains (@nonavarnado)
Kat Jungnickel, Senior lecturer in sociology at Goldsmiths, University of London, and author of “Bikes & Bloomers: Victorian Women Inventors and their Extraordinary Cycle Wear” (@katjungnickel)

More:
The ingenious cyclewear Victorian women invented to navigate social mores
The National Push to Close the Cycling Gender Gap
What Will It Take To Close The Gender Gap In Urban Cycling?

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