By Jay Forte, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – After a year and six months of construction, the new bike path that connects the neighborhoods of Leblon and São Conrado, in Zona Sul (South Zone) was opened on January 17th for use by locals and tourists. The path named “Ciclovia Tim Maia” runs a distance of 3.9 km, with full view of the sea, but unfortunately has already seen an assault and robbery (on January 23rd).
To make matters worse, the assault, which happened at 10:30 PM according to local media, was reported to the police, who refused to send a car to investigate. The reason given was that there was no fixed telephone line to verify the exact address, which is not what international tourists will want to hear while planning their vacations to Rio.
Still the new bike path provides a stunning view of the coast and once security improves, will provide an important link between a traditionally congested roadway. At the inauguration, Mayor Eduardo Paes said this semester, with the inauguration of the stretch connecting São Conrado to Barra da Tijuca, at the Elevado do Joá (highway), there will be a bike path from Centro to Grumari in Zona Oeste (West Zone) without interruption.
Gian Paulo Bonaccorsi, owner of a homeopathic pharmacy in São Conrado and resident in Botafogo, is happy with the new bike path after the inauguration. “This is a historic moment for the inclusion of the neighborhood in the city, which will be realized with the subway. São Conrado has the stigma of a passage neighborhood,” Bonaccorsi told government sources. “I have clients in Vidigal and now they can go by bike to my pharmacy.”
Regarding security and how much the new bike path will be used, American journalist, blogger and author Julia Michaels, shared that “I think the police and or the city will do something about the safety issue. Probably cameras and some policing. And so yes, it will be used.” But added, “after the Olympics I might have another answer.”
Tom Le Mesurier, an expatriate and culinary tour guide at Eat Rio is also optimistic, and said, “I think people will use it! My guess is it will be like other areas in Rio which have had security issues due to lack of adequate policing (Aterro do Flamengo, Santa Teresa) – people will still use it. If robberies continue or increase then there will have to be some kind of response from the authorities. They spent too much money on this project to let it fail.”
The city reportedly invested R$458 million in the Ciclovia Tim Maia with funds from the National Bank for Economic and Social Development (BNDES), which adds to the infrastructure overhaul that the city of Rio de Janeiro is receiving ahead of the 2016 Olympic Games, including a new Metro line to Barra.
Authorities say that the city of Rio de Janeiro has the largest urban cycling network in Latin America, over 438.9 km with the opening of Ciclovia Tim Maia. The goal of the Municipal Department of the Environment, to which the cycling program is linked, is to reach 450 km by the end of 2016, 300 km more than there were in 2009.
Although extensive, a recent survey conducted by the NGO Rio Como Vamos found the cycling network does not fully meet the demand in Rio. According to the survey, 45 percent of those asked in Rio highlighted the construction of bike lanes as a key to use bikes more. The biggest concern noted in the survey (51 percent) however, was with respect to the safety of cyclists.
Yet Lorraine Coolidge, a U.S. expatriate who co-founded the Discovery Hostel and AtivoRio said that despite the robbery on Ciclovia Tim Maia so soon after the opening, she is not deterred. “Rio is like any big city and I try to be a smart traveler in general. I only carry what I need, I keep my eyes open, and I don’t go places where my red flag goes up or I am not knowledgable of.”
Adding, “I’m actually really excited about trying [the Tim Maia] out. I have even been asking around to see if friends want to go (assuming I ever find the time). My hopes would be that there is police presence on the bike path… more importantly there are cameras.”
Data from the Public Security Institute (ISP), an agency of the State Department Security, for the period from September to November 2015 shows that were 260 recorded bicycle thefts in city. Sadly, many residents still remember the tragic robbery and killing of a cyclist along the Lagoa last year.