The annual GRA Croplands Research Group meeting in Brasilia, Brazil afforded me the opportunity to observe bicycling in South America (a first for me). My previous travels ‘south of the border’ have extended no further than Mazatlán, Mexico, so this was a momentous travel experience, and one I enjoyed immensely despite being limited to a three day visit.
Brasilia is the hub of government for Brazil. It has the unique distinction of being a city built over a 41 month period with the specific purpose of supporting the national government. Inaugurated in April 1960, the city is characterized by modernist architecture at a grand scale.
(Looking down from the 21st floor onto part of the Monumental Axis)
While I had no time for recreation during my visit, my walking excursions to and from meeting locations allowed me to observe bicycling in this city of 2.5 million people.
One thing I noticed immediately upon arriving was the pace of the traffic. All vehicles, including public transport, moved well above the speed limit and often at an unsafe travelling distance. As a pedestrian, I learned immediately to look twice before crossing roadways, even when I had the right-of-way (as I was nearly hit at an intersection by a taxi on the first day!). Some thoroughfares were also surprisingly wide (six lanes), which made for some interesting crossing experiences given the paucity of stoplights.
(Major thoroughfare in Brasilia)
I was pleased to see a bike-share system and dedicated bike lanes close to the Monumental Axis. Both, however, seemed infrequently used until Sunday morning, corresponding to a time when vehicular traffic was scant. The bike share stations seemed to be operated using cellular phones, as I could not discern an obvious undocking/docking mechanism, though admittedly, my limited understanding of the Portuguese language didn’t help.
(Dedicated bike lanes)
(Brasilia bike-share station)
(And you unlock it how?)
I witnessed some interesting riding habits during my visit. ‘Taking the lane’ on the equivalent of an interstate was a bit surprising, as was riding against traffic on the same highway. Salmoning seems ubiquitous, despite the obvious risks.
(‘Taking the Lane’ in the passing lane)