Everyone in Favor of Bicycles but Few Are Pedaling

Being against the use of bicycles in big cities is almost like being against basic sanitation, freedom of expression or the right to come and go: humanly inconceivable and socially abominable. Increased congestion and steadily worsening air quality have placed bicycles in a kind of metropolitan Olympus, where there are also centenary trees, dumps and public restrooms and citizens able to pass. Throughout the world, bicycle paths have become synonymous with civility and a symbol of hope that urban life can be simpler and more enjoyable.

São Paulo, the largest Brazilian city, is implementing an extensive network of exclusive tracks for cyclists. By 2015, 400 kilometers are promised, of which more than 80 kilometers have already been delivered. The measure, which was approved by 80% of the population according to the Datafolha, even managed to reverse the poor assessment of the mayor Fernando Haddad (PT). The rate of those who considered their government bad or bad fell from 47 percent to 28 percent in just two months, according to the institute. Although the merit of the project is unquestionable, there are doubts as to how it has been implemented. A good part of these cycle lanes presents circulation passages opposite the cars, invades pedestrian spaces or is punctuated with obstacles such as trees, holes and unevenness in the runway. There are places where they connect nowhere,

Mayors around the world have already focused on the difficulty of establishing a harmonious coexistence between walkers, pedestrians, those who drive and those who use public transportation. With a greater or lesser degree of success, many resorted to the deployment of bicycle lanes as part of the solution. What has been demonstrated is that the general empathy towards bicycles does not instantly convert to two-wheelers. In other words, although everyone thinks it’s a good idea, there are very few who actually pedal.

In the Datafolha survey released at the end of September, only 3% of paulistanos said they were frequent supporters of this practice, which is still new here. But time is not synonymous with success. In London, which invested in bike paths in the early 2000s, only 2.5% of the population uses bicycles to go to work. The number contrasts – and much – with that of the most successful metropolises in this area. In Amsterdam, 57% of the residents pedal daily and in Copenhagen 52% do the same. Why then, in some cities, the bicycle lanes are full and empty?

The first explanation is the safety of these tracks. When the lanes are well-designed, at least 1.5 meters wide and half a meter reserved only to insulate bikes from cars, they become more sought after by those who feel vulnerable when riding: women and people over 60. Without these conditions, those who take their chances on bicycles are mostly men between the ages of 25 and 40, more willing to face the danger of passing between cars, buses and motorcycles. And even if there is a separation between the bicycle lane and the lane of the cars, it is of no use if the lane is expressed, high-speed, which also applies to bus corridors. Still unattractive is the creation of cycle paths, elevated stretches, and therefore more inaccessible, that can be used strategically for stealing and theft of cyclists.

Another point that can generate more or less adhesion is the traffic legislation. Both in the Netherlands and in Denmark these laws protect cyclists and, in the event of an accident, drivers are held liable for severe punishments. This makes you drive more carefully and respect the bikes. Care is also taken in the reverse hand: cyclists must respect traffic lights, pedestrian lanes and the direction of lanes, do not walk on sidewalks and be noticed with headlights, taillights and flashy clothing.

Finally, if more comfortable and faster modes of transport are offered than bikes, the population will certainly tend to choose them. This applies both to cars sold exempt from IPI and to the wide rails of rails. In these cases, the bicycle paths will only be requested in the poorest districts, deprived of public transportation and where most of the residents do not have a car.

In summary, according to experts, to choose the pedals requires that the other options are too expensive or too inconvenient on bestitude.

Unless, like what has happened in other places, pedaling becomes a cultural issue, a flag to be defended. And this cycle activists know how to do very well. Perhaps the bet of the São Paulo project resides in this: to present the bicycle lanes as a “proposal of the good”, which can be met by the population, although more by ideology than by practical reasons.In any case, for the success of the work and general safety, it would be good if in São Paulo were also considered the other points involved in the creation and adhesion to the bike paths