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2950 kilometres and one bench

Every morning for three months it's been the same routine. Alarm, breakfast, bike. Between times I take it easy and rifle through the clothes inside the panniers in search of my cycling shorts. Like any good worker I have my uniform, and mine is my cycling shorts. The same goes for Ainara and Carlos, my travelling companions. Our job over these last few months has involved mapping and recording citizen initiatives on our bikes. From atop our saddles we've discovered projects undertaken by citizens who carry out transformational processes in their cities. From urban gardens to neighbourhood centres, to citizen lobby groups and social currency, we've recorded some thirty initiatives the length and breadth of Spain and Portugal.

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The city according to its citizens

After four days of sun and heat, today daybreak was cloudy. Out comes the jacket that we had packed away in Leon. The grey sky and drizzle intensifies as we get closer to Gasteiz. Without a doubt, we're close to home.

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Back to the countryside

According to a saying in Palencia, "the road from Revenga to Villarmentero is short". For us, the road from Santiago de Compostela to these lands in Castile-León is also short. Or it seemed that way, at least. Only when we are here do we realise how quickly things happen. In ten days, we have travelled the 400km which separate the Galician mountains from the moors of Castile-León. Along the way, we have come across pilgrims, cyclists and countless citizen initiatives.

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The street by and for children

This isn't the first time that a river has crossed our path. We crossed the last one by ferry and this one in Caminha was no exception. It is a weekend in August. The company that operates the ferry connecting both shores of the River Minho has doubled its services. Twenty cars, thirty-odd people and our bicycles are travelling across to the other side. The other shore lies in a different country but everything else remains the same – the landscape, the culture and even the language. The Galician language which is spoken in A Guarda has so much in common with Portuguese that our ears find it impossible to distinguish the two.

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Towards a more open and democratic city

We knew that our route to San Sebastian was not the most direct, but we still didn't expect to go through the same place twice. Hey, these things happen on the road. Often the best way of moving forward is to retrace the route that took you there in the first place. At least, that's what we deduced from our itinerary: Vila do Conde - Guimarães on Wednesday, Guimarães - Vila do Conde on Friday. At the halfway point, we took the opportunity to talk to a municipal representative and a citizen about public participation and urban transformation.

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The city as a political act

From Praia de Lavadores you can see the river Duero. And on the other bank, in the background, Porto, the second most populous city in the country and our next destination. The city boasts cobbled streets, old trams and monumental architecture. And as of late tourism, a lot of tourism. Seemingly, it has become an obligatory visit for the European tourist. It's enough to go through the historic centre on two tricycles and a bicycle to see this: we share the road with double-decker buses, little tourist trains and even rented tourist tricycles. The use of streets and squares is equally aggressive: restaurant terraces and stands have invaded the public space.

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Between profession and passion

The evening falls on Campo de Criptana. With our bicycles parked, we begin preparing the camera. Sensing the move, Juan, the miller, asks if we will film him as well. "Yes, if that's all right", we answer. Juan responds with a friendly affirmative gesture as he shrugs on a white smock. This is the unique dress of millers from La Mancha, which is comprised of a chequered scarf and the smock that now covers his t-shirt. Juan doesn't just show off windmills, he also refurbishes them and puts them back into operation. We met up with him so that he could show them to us, and teach us more about this profession that he himself has resurrected.

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The other side of Madrid

Proximity leads to coexistence. Each one of us inhabits a circle made up of our physical surroundings and the personal relationships which take place within it. When your circle overlaps with mine, interaction takes place. Sparks fly within that shared space. It's the place of friendships made in parks, communities of neighbours and citizen projects. But what happens when three million small circles overlap in a place like Madrid? Hundreds of associations, initiatives and projects driven forward by citizens spring forth. This human phenomenon is what is represented by Los Madriles.

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Nineteen realities

It's noon at the Madrid – Chamartín station. Standing on the platform, we're waiting to board the train that will once again take us on our journey. This is our only stop along the way, and our only day of extra rest. We will never get used to the life of a nomad. The carriage's illuminated sign indicates the route: Madrid – Salamanca, two hundred kilometres that we wont have to cycle. However, at our destination, our path continues along more than a thousand kilometres, and we have half of Portugal ahead of us.

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Urban art: from walls to the stage

It's seven in the evening and Zësar Bahamonte is draining the last drops from his can of turquoise spray paint. He is an urban artist, although he prefers to define himself as a "street painter". We met him at one of the side walls of the Secondary School in Almagro, where he's been painting a sizeable mural for two days. There, with the help of a crane, he's been sketching the outlines of the drawing.

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Handmade initiatives

It's now a month since I got this blog under way. During this time we've discussed, among other things, urban farms, citizen action groups and neighbourhood centres, all of which involve grassroots initiatives of people eager to transform their neighbourhoods and cities. Citizens often have common interests which manifest themselves through similar projects. That's why one month ago you might have imagined reading about such projects, but not about the person behind this post.

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Olive growers and the talent of citizens

The road from initiative to initiative is long and, in Andalusia, it is also hot. As we continue on our way, we pass through lands that are full of sunflowers, olive groves and kind, hospitable people.

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The five routes are now underway from the Biziz touring embassy!

The ambassadors of the five cycling routes of the Biziz touring embassy and its team of colleagues are now underway in Europe. Below you can find out where each route is at the moment.

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The downstairs neighbours

The woman in the photograph is María José. In the image she smiles at her sewing shop mates while she crosses needles between her fingers. She has worn glasses since university, where she studied Law. This, together with her interest in housing, brought her to the Casa del Pumarejo. Since 2002, she has visited this community house almost daily. She began collaborating as the house's legal advisor, where she provided services to residents in exchange for long conversations on the patio. These exchanges between neighbours were what rooted her to the place. From her role as counsellor she jumped to the House's library and, without giving up the latter, she dove into the sewing shop.

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The brains and the muscle of the cities

The journey to Cadiz has been long. However, having arrived at last, Nico is waiting inside the truck for the day to break to deliver the goods. An hour later the phone rings in the apartment. Carlos answers the call and wakes the rest: the bicycles have arrived.

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Las Palmas: on vegetable gardens, plots and women of the land

The airport PA announces that the flight is boarding. The three of us going on the expedition sit down with our small rucksacks in the plane, which will take us from continental Europe to insular Europe, destination Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, the starting point of our expedition.

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Public initiatives that build the city

Cities are the framework of contemporary human life; they contain our activities, our relationships as human beings, our coexistence. One might say that the planning we carry out in them is a reflection of that activity, but it is not. The rigid urban planning of our cities continues to fail to respond to the needs of active and participative citizens.

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