BIKE FOR A BETTER SÃO PAULO
By Guto Requena
Februay 20, 2013
Yesterday I returned home from my studio, as I do every day, and once again felt sorry for the Paulistas stuck in traffic. The end of Carnival, the return to school, the rain, auto sales tax cut to zero so more cars can fill our roads, and inadequate, low quality public transportation. The result is pure chaos: an angry, unhappy city held hostage by the daily commute. Everyone is stopped, honking with rage at their neighbors, isolated and alone in their cars. And the forecasts only get worse. I recently read in Época Magazine that every hour 92 new cars arrive on the streets of the capital. 2,000 Motor vehicles are licensed each day, and more than 800,000 every year.
Yesterday I arrived at home, as I do every day from work, but I was not angry. I came by bike, as I have every day for three years. By riding, I’ve come to see São Paulo in a new way. I’ve made peace with the city. I discovered along my bicycle route that, despite its size, São Paulo has many scales and can even look like a small town in the way we relate to the street. It all depends on how we experience this metropolis. During these three years on the bike I’ve paid more attention to the landscape, to architecture, to João’s auto repair and Dona Maria’s newsstand and the Purple Ipês that will soon bloom again. As usual, I was paying attention to the changes and surprises of my daily journey, the small things that really make a difference in city life.
When I’m biking, I look in the eyes of people I encounter, I engage with my surroundings, I am more acutely aware of the problems in my neighborhood and am encouraged to participate in their solutions. Riding in São Paulo today, however, is an adventure. Rules and laws to organize cyclists, pedestrians and vehicles are lacking. So are boldness and courage on the part of government and the private sector to innovate and to consider the bicycle as a viable means of transportation. This is already happening in cities all over the world. We Paulistas will lack the initiative as long as we seem incapable of walking three blocks on foot.
Soon I’ll arrive at home, and with the certainty that it will take the same time it always has, just 20 minutes. I’ll say hello to João, buy a magazine at the newsstand, get a kick from the local graffiti and perhaps, with luck, glimpse the first Purple Ipê flowers blossoming to life.