In february of 2011, car advanced against group of cyclists in the capital.members of the critical mass involved remember details of the fact.
Wounded cyclists on the ground screamed for help as a car advanced on the group during the Critical Mass mobilization that advocates the use of bicycles as a means of transportation in Porto Alegre. Four years after the videotaped scenes on the night of February 25, 2011, characters in the event remember details, lament the risk that they are still pedaling in the packs and speak of “impunity.” Nevertheless, they recognize that the disorder gave more visibility to the cicloativistas, that is to say, those that defend the integration of the bicycle in the traffic.
“I feel a positive consequence, especially with regard to the common sense of the people who drive, and the treatment they give to the groups of cyclists on the street. There was a lot of discussion, and the fruit of this discussion was that the rider’s place is on the street, we have that right “I’ve always got a more ignorant and aggressive staff, but today I’m occupying a whole lane and I’m much less buzzy,” says software developer Helton Moraes, 37, one of the cyclists hit by the car four years ago.
Slowly, some ideas advance and the scenery changes. Bicycle paths are built – though without an efficient cycling network, according to them – and the bicycle rental system increasingly encourages their use. “It was a negative episode, but at least it made the cycling movement grow,” says physical educator Paulo Roberto de Souza Alves, 41, who is also president of the Association of Cyclists in the South Zone of the capital.
The accident happened on the night of last Friday of the month, when Massa Crítica is usually held on the corner of José do Patrocínio and Luiz Afonso streets in the Cidade Baixa neighborhood, when a group of about 100 cyclists. The driver honked, trying to ask for passage. Unsuccessfully, he stepped on the accelerator.
“I heard the noise and it seemed like a locomotive coming on top of us. It was a general despair,” recalls Alves, who says that he”almost” missed the vehicle. “I saw the car passing a meter and a half away from me.I began to help my friends get up off the ground.I saw people coming out, crawling under the cars parked, injured,” recalls the activist, who was riding on the right side of the group. “Sometimes I thought something like that could happen someday and that’s why it got closer to the sidewalk,” he confesses.
Moraes was not so lucky. He says he was in the rear platoon, and was hit by Neis’ car. He had only a slight injury in hand and little damage to the bike, which he still uses today.”I was at the top four feet in front of the car, it was at low speed when it hit, so it did not hurt much, I was pushed from the back, I fell to the ground and I was sliding forward,” he says.
The developer remembers that, before advancing against the group, Neis even managed to hit lightly a cyclist who asked him not to start. “I saw the car pushing a cyclist with the bumper, a clicker stopped and held out his hand.In that position, I saw his bike being pushed.I think the people jumped up and started talking louder. The car accelerating,”he said.
Alves denies that the cyclists have assaulted the banker or beaten the windows and the hood of the car, as claimed by the driver at the time. “He forced the passage, leaned against the back of the bikes. There was an argument, but at no point did I see the cyclists crashing in the car,” he says.
After advancing against the group, the driver followed the route, still empty due to the blockade that allowed the cyclists to pass in their demonstration, without providing assistance to the victims.”The road was free for him and he accelerated a lot, there was no way to reach him, but if he had stopped the car, I do not know what could have happened, a lynching, maybe…It was a moment of fervor.” At the time, the banker even said that he fled for fear of being lynched.
Danger On Two Wheels
In theory, it is safer to ride a bicycle in the capital of Rio Grande do Sul. According to the latest statistics from the Public Transport and Movement Company (EPTC), the number of occurrences involving cyclists decreased between 2011 and 2014, including deaths and injuries. The index, however, is minimal: there was a decrease of only 2% in the number of accidents in the period.
In practice, however, it is not so simple.”Anyone who pedals frequently in the city goes through situations of risk-taking disrespect,” says lawyer Pablo Weiss, 35, who is also a member of the Association of Cyclists in Porto Alegre.
Defending the use of the bicycle as a means of transport, he drives his car on a daily basis for about six kilometers, from home to work, and vice versa. Not to mention the leisure hours.”There is a lack of respect for the cyclist, there is a lot of drivers who think that the bike has to be on the sidewalk.
For them, the car and public transport are easily exchanged for the bicycle.”I avoid getting the car out of the garage, just for longer distances or for travel,”explains Alves.”This is due to a number of factors. The more traffic starts to get heavy, the more people are going to look for alternatives and see the bike as the best alternative, faster, more economical,” Weiss says.
Moraes does not give up his helmet with a rearview mirror. He believes that the difficulties faced by those who risk pedaling between cars is a consequence of a characteristic of traffic that reflects in all modes.”The traffic is violent. The cyclist is as badly treated as pedestrians and other drivers,” he says.
Cycle Paths And Bike Rentals Attract New Fans
Currently, Porto Alegre has about 25 kilometers distributed in 18 cycle routes or cycle paths, from North to South of the city. “Of course, the existence of the bike lane encourages those people who do not use their bike at all times, and when it is well designed, it increases the safety of the cyclist,” says the lawyer.
“Cycling, no matter how small, is a motivational tool.” Renting bicycles also encourage use, lacking civility, the driver, the cyclist and the pedestrian all part of the traffic. Life is more important than a material good,”adds Alves.
But there are criticisms. For some cyclists, the red paint used on bicycle lanes, with the purpose of demarcating the area, leaves the floor slippery on rainy days.”Here the bike path goes from nowhere to nowhere, as we usually say. There are excessive signs, bike paths that mix with sidewalks, which impairs the relationship with the pedestrian, in addition to the paint, which leaves the floor slippery in days of”Says Weiss, who also reports that it is difficult to change sides on the cycle path of Avenida Ipiranga, one of the main roads in the city.
The use of the 40 stations of BikePoa, with 400 bicycles, shows that population adherence is relevant. With more than 100 thousand users and 500 thousand trips, the rental system can serve as leisure on weekends, but also as a means of transportation in some situations.
“I think this is the beginning of a transformation, but it will take a few years to make the mistakes, unfortunately it will not be tomorrow,” says Alves.