By Mary Carroll, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – In the race to develop better infrastructure in the city before hosting the 2016 Olympics, Rio has launched an ambitious transportation plan of BRT (Rapid Bus Transit) lanes to help link previously under-connected neighborhoods. Unfortunately inadequate road signs, as well as reckless drivers, motorcyclists and pedestrians, have been blamed for a rash of accidents on the BRT Transoeste.
The Transoeste which was inaugurated in June, and connects 56 kilometers of road between Santa Cruz and Campo Grande to Barra da Tijuca west of the city. When finished it will be used by an estimated 220,000 commuters across 59 BRT stations.
However after just three months of operation, O Globo reports there have been at least four pedestrian accidents causing death, and five vehicle collisions recorded.
Michael Lindsay, director of the Rio International School in Barra da Tijuca shares that; “As a person who drives daily on the Avenida das Américas in Barra alongside the BRT, I can say that I have seen a few issues which concern me.”
“Now that the BRT has dedicated lanes in both directions it has become increasingly difficult for pedestrians to maneuver because the BRT buses do not follow the flow of traffic.” Lindsay explains.
The first accident was young Felipe de Freitas (17) who was fatally injured after he was hit by a BRT Transoeste bus on July 4th. In reaction to the tragedy, teachers and students from his school in Barra, Colégio Estadual Vicente Jannuzzi, staged a protest demanding higher safety standards.
The demonstration lasted two hours as they blocked the central lanes on Avenida das Américas, which affected around 30,000 passengers, according to CET-Rio. The protest seemed to have had an impact as Department of Transport (SMRT) announced the installation of pedestrian crossings and traffic lights in front of the school.
The Department of Transport is also considering installing more of them along the avenue. This is something Lindsay feels is needed, but also; “The issue at hand in my opinion is that the population should be better educated and notified of the dangers of attempting to cross the street without the aid of signals.”
However vehicle collision accidents have also been a concern, which is seemingly chalked up to operator error as drivers are not obeying the traffic laws and taking unnecessary risks. To this Lindsay suggests; “It seems to me that personal drivers of automobiles will adjust to the change and the accidents involving the BRT and these drivers will eventually decrease.”
While Rio is struggling with the new bus lanes, Brazil has experience when it comes to BRTs. The world’s first BRT system was established as far back as 1974 in the southern city of Curitiba, with notable success.
Jaime Lerner, architect and mayor of the state of Paraná at the time, was responsible for introducing the system with the objective of providing an efficient high quality transit service through articulated buses which are allocated exclusive laneways. Since then, countries across the world have followed suit.