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.

Avenida das Américas near the Barra Sul station on the Transoeste BRT, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil News
Avenida das Américas near the Barra Sul station on the Transoeste BRT saw the most recent accident Friday, August 31st, image recreation.

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.

An earlier accident on the BRT, where cars are attempting to turn across the bus lane, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil News
An earlier accident on the BRT, where cars are attempting to turn across the bus lane, image recreation.

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.


  1. The bottom line is that in Brazil pedistrians and drivers have a high threshold for risk taking- very poorly calculated risk taking. The perceived gains of beating a traffic light (only to wait at another red 100 meters down the road), save a few seconds, etc. are far outweighed by risk of accident, injury and death. I saw two pedestrians who were struck to death by cars just in the last two weeks in zona sul.

    Rio is not a pedestrian friendly city at all but it could be so much better with a minimal effort. There are many points where there should be traffic lights installed, speed bumps, etc. Just one example is the merge at Rainha Elizabeth and Viera Souto. If a car stop at the stop sign there is a very strong chance it will get rear-ended by a bus. It is definitely more dangerous to stop or even slow down then to blow thru at full speed. And by the way, this is a major point where pedestrians need to cross. This is the same situation a block away at Joaquim Nabuco and Viera Souto right in front of the Fasano hotel. You’d think the Fasano people (JHSF) would have some pull with the prefeitura to get a crosswalk or traffic light installed there. It can take 10 minutes to cross the street on a weekday afternoon. It is the apathetic cariocas that put up with it for so long- not standing up for their rights and not realizing they have a voice and can make a change. I have seen it happen and quite quickly when you take action. These are more than quality of life issues- they are basic safety issues that can be remedied relatively easily! Rio has a lot of work to do on this front.


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