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.
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