This past weekend South America’s largest city, São Paulo (est. pop. 19,616,060) inaugurated their first bike lane. The city striped the first 5km of bike lanes and celebrated the event with their version of Bike Miami Days with an estimated 9,000 bicyclists, skateboarders, pedestrians, and rollerbladers participating in this event. Going forward, the city of São Paulo will close several streets every Sunday from 7am- 12pm, hoping to attract at least 10,000 participants. The limited street closures will connect three parks within the city, including Parque Ibirapuera, São Paulo’s largest park. If successful, the route will be extended to the University of São Paulo which is already used on the weekends by bicyclists and triathletes as their preferred training ground.
São Paulo lacks green spaces and the few parks that do exist, such as Parque Ibirapuera, are usually filled to capacity on the weekends. Riding a bicycle on the streets of São Paulo is a virtual death wish; I know because I have done it. If a car does not clip you, chances are pretty good that you will get bikejacked.
The Sunday Ciclovia addresses both of these barriers to bicycling in São Paulo. With the increased police presence and partially closed streets, the chances of being hit by a car diminish substantially. Public vigilance is perhaps the best deterrent against crime, with 10,000 extra eyes on the streets, even the most brazen of criminals will think twice about mugging a bicyclist for their wheels.
Hopefully the new bike lanes are just the beginning for São Paulo. The opportunities for outdoor recreation are limited for the city’s inhabbitants, particularly for the poor and the lower middle class. This megacity could certainly use more bike lanes, especially protected bicycle lanes, as traffic and driving etiquette in this city are unlike anything that I have ever experienced.
Tropical Paradise or Transportation Paradise?
Morro de Sao Paulo is a small village on the island of Tinhare in Bahia, Brazil which is located about 40 miles south of Salvador, Brazil’s third largest city. It is only accessible by a 2 hour boat ride or on a 25 minute puddle-jumper. It has a small population of about 3000 local residents which rely predominantly on tourism in order to fuel the local economy. Up until about 15 years ago, Morro de Sao Paulo was a fishing village.
The real beauty of Morro de Sao Paulo is not just the beaches, but the fact that no cars are allowed to enter the village center. To get around, your only real transportation option is your feet. In fact, during my 4 days in Morro de Sao Paulo, I saw only 4 bicycles, a couple of donkeys, and a tractor that collects garbage early in the morning. I saw my first car when I was on the way to the airport while riding on the back of a tractor-bus.
Getting around on two feet was not difficult, but rather pleasurable. The development of the village has grown naturally on a human-scale; meaning most distances within the village are no longer than a half-hour walk. The inaccessibility of Morro de Sao Paulo is certainly a major contributing factor to its organic growth.
Particularly inspiring is the manner in which supplies are transported within the village. Whether a refrigerator, cement bags, computers, alcohol bottles or food, all goods are transported within the community by wheelbarrow. It is astonishing to see the small supermarket in the village was fully stocked with first-rate amenities. Approximately 200 men wheelbarrow all the supplies from the arriving boats to the village. The car free village generates jobs by employing wheelbarrow operators that do not pollute.
There are some valuable lessons to learn from Morro de Sao Paulo. This tight knit community has shown that with a little hard work and planning, a car free community is possible and desirable, as can be evidenced by the thousands of tourists that visit this remote village every year. The community’s low reliance on motor-vehicles, combined with a transportation infrastructure which is predominantly reliant on human power will allow it to adapt more easily to an oil starved future. As our cities become more densely populated, perhaps we will need to turn to working examples such as Morro de Sao Paulo. This small village illustrates that with an emphasis on human power we can reduce our dependence on foreign oil.
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