RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – It was very sad news to see a young French tourist fall from the Santa Teresa Bonde (trolly) last week. Such a unnecessary tragedy for his family, and the whole city was surprised and shocked. Well, maybe not shocked, anyone who had ridden that trolly felt a twinge of danger as it passed over the Lapa aqueduct (Arcos da Lapa) descending to its final stop in Centro.
My first ride on it was in 2005 maybe – on a two month writing trip, and my (ex) girlfriend finally dragged me up to Santa Teresa for some sightseeing one afternoon. Both of our jaws dropped as we sat in the open seating trolly with people hanging off the side, skirting out over the bank to the narrow track atop the aqueduct.
We looked at each other and tried to center ourselves so a sudden shudder wouldn’t dislodge anything. The “net” looked like a long forgotten boundary to the abyss (from my vantage point), with plenty of space to pass through.
“This would never fly back home” I said, the liability on it would shut it down faster then a Judge Judy. I am no lawyer, and I do not have a sense of the recourse normal Brazilians have for this type of situation, but as many know the U.S. has a culture of legal action (some say frivolous) that makes organizations look at safety conditions differently.
Many would say it is too much, bars are liable for how much alcohol they serve, builders are liable for hard hats on the job site, restaurants liable for coffee temperature, and it can all become stifling. Certainly the financial equation changes, and business owners and organizations cannot offer some services due to the liability costs.
“Good for Brazil” I thought, they have more pressing concerns the safety code violations on the Bonde, and citizens are take responsibility for their own actions and safety. If this is the only way the trolly can operate, it is way better then NOT operating.
Although at the same time I thought it was only a matter of time until someone fell from that thing. It is an incredibly sad and unfortunate time for the family of the young man, Charles Damien Pierson. We send all our thoughts, prayers and condolences.
We also look forward to Rio investing in some better safety for the Bonde, but hope they keep it open and operational for the people who live in Santa Teresa and count on it for transportation, as well as the city’s tourists who marvel at the views and streets of the neighborhood.