Carfree cyclists also uses more buses and cabs

A few months ago I hurted my ankle badly while I was doing a physical training. I didn’t feel much pain at the moment and went back home by bike. The next morning I had a tenis ball instead of an ankle and couldn’t even touch the floor with my foot. So I had to call a cab and go straight to the hospital.

ordinary bus line in Curitiba

ordinary bus line in Curitiba

In those kinds of situations I must find alternative means of transportation since I don’t own a car. Most of the time, the bus is my option, for instance:

  • When it’s pouring down rain and I am carrying something that can not get wet.
  • If it’s too late and the distance is too great (like 25km).
  • When I have visitors who are not crazy enough to face the streets by bike (like my mother).

But sometimes it has to be a cab. Walk almost 1km to the bus stop with a bad ankle wasn’t feasible at all. Another example is the  migraine my wife occasionally has. It also requires some urgency. But when that’s not the case, she can easily bike (or even walk) a few miles.

To promote a carfree lifestyle is beneficial to public transportation.

Not only because there will be more space on the streets. But there will be actually more people using it. After I sold my car, I started to use public transit a lot more. I also get a few rides with some carsharing friends but it doesn’t happen very often and as a last resource, I can take a cab.

Someone might ask: But if you are going to spend money, why don’t you just keep the car?

Well, those situations are exceptions, and it costs me about R$40.00 a month. Very different from the R$600.00 the car used to cost me. Not to mention that I don’t need to worry about parking, washing, paying taxes and fixing the car. BesidesI get a lot of extra space in my garage to do whatever I want to.


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A critical mass ride on September 22th

This is a small video made last year during our ride on September 22th. It was our all-time record. More than four hundred people celebrating the streets. I hope it can be inspiring for the World Carfree Day 2009.

Thanks to Simone and Pinduca for doing such a great job.

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Free Transportation Program

I work for a company that has more than a thousand employees. Approximately eight hundred of them are located in two buildings in the same neighbourhood only half a mile away from each other, and both really close to a bike path.

In 2007, when I noticed that more and more of my work colleagues were interested in my commuting choice, I decided I should do something to encourage more people to bike to work.

CELEPAR bike commuters

CELEPAR bike commuters

The project started when I joined the company’s CIPA (an internal comity responsible for employee’s health and safety, compulsory to every Brasilian company). We were able to use the intranet and corporate email to help us develop educational campaigns, organise visits to different departments, and distribute flyers.  It was the first phase of the project called Survey.

Survey
Before carrying out any effective measure toward cycle mobility in the company, we designed a questionnaire to evaluate the feasibility for the company and whether or not there were people interested in it. It contained a set of closed-ended questions (e.g.: commuting distance, travelling time and costs) and open-ended questions (e.g.: pros and cons for biking, street safety). We also recorded some video interviews where the employees could speak more freely and we could gather some suggestions and critics.

All this process took almost six months. The results were promising and we were anxious to start the second phase.

Most employees support cyclists

Most employees support cyclists

Analysis
From the collected data, it was possible to acknowledge that the majority of the employees supported the project, even those who said that would continue to use their car. However, bike commuting wasn’t an appropriate choice for all those who were interested. During this phase we determined our target group and developed some strategies to encourage a more efficient use of the bicycle. It was time to ride.

Implementation
Almost one year later the program was launched. Besides the employees who spontaneously began to use the bike during the first two phases, it was time to get people to ride.

We organised bike tours with groups of more than 30 people among employees and relatives. The route was made exclusively by bicycle. It was an excellent opportunity to enforce bicycle as a valid means of transportation and address legal issues, basic bike fitting, and riding techniques.

We also started a “Ride Buddy/Mentor” program (similar to CommuteOrlando) helping people to choose the best route, fitting their bike and riding with a mentor for novice cyclists.

Follow-up
Although our study indicated that the company staff supported this mobility program, there was no incentive to maintain and expand the program from the board of directors.

Even so, there are new employees adopting the bicycle. On sunny days, more than 15 bicycles can be seen leaned against the company garage’s wall. And they aren’t always the same ones. It is good to see more and more bicycles than the measly two or three bikes parked there before the program.

The importance of the program has been recognised outside the company. Last year it was accepted in the Towards Carfree Cities Conference in Portland, USA. Unfortunately we couldn’t make it. And this year, it will be presented at the 17th National Congress of Transit and Transportation (CNTT-ANTP) held in September here in Curitiba, Brazil.

I’d like to give a special thanks to Ulrich Jager, a mobility consultant from L & J Mobility who strongly supported our project since the very beginning.

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Bicycle Rickshaw at the Bus Terminal

Last year my cousin came to visit us from Brazil’s capital – the real one, Brasilia, the Federal Capital (and also the one that recently took the title of “most motorized city in Brazil” from Curitiba).

He told me beforehand that he was coming by bus on a weekday afternoon and that he would only spend one day here as he was on transit to Buenos Aires. I began to wonder the best way to meet him on arrival, as I don’t own a car and the late afternoon the traffic and public transport aren’t exactly attractive options. I finally decided to pick him up with my Altmayer bikeshaw. There’s enough room for two people and also an additional space beneath the seat for luggage. Besides, I was dying to use it as I had only used a few times before, and just to ride around a little.

A rickshaw similar to the Altmayer bikeshaw - ©Luis Patricio

An Altmayer bikeshaw model - ©Luis Patricio

The day before he arrived he phoned to confirm the time of his arrival and I told him how I would meet him. He answered with a simple “OK!” “Great”, I thought, “I’m glad he didn’t think it would be awkward”. As I work downtown and the bus terminal is nearby and easy to get to. I didn’t take the bikeshaw on a cycle path because the rickshaw simply would not fit and it’s really uncomfortable to go over street crossings without lowered sidewalks. And even if I didn’t have those problems, there are many obstacles and it would be a burden to pedestrians, since most of the cycle paths are shared with them. So, I decided to use the streets.

Once he arrived and saw the bikeshaw, even though he was tired from his 24 hours journey, he laughed and said: “Are you serious? This is a joke, isn’t it?” I guess he didn’t understand me on the phone after all. But after a little while he got that that was how we where going home.

My apartment is about 3 miles and a few hills away from the bus terminal, and we chatted all the way home. After the first impact and the felling of being “exotic” he relaxed and enjoyed the ride (although he later confessed that he was glad to be in a city where no one knows him).

The final score: Me, a little more tired than usual from pulling almost 220 pounds of extra weight, but deeply satisfied for being able to accomplish it. My cousin, satisfied for trying something really new, but very cool (according to him) and surprised for being able to get to see so much of the city upon his arrival.

Luis Patricio

Curitiba, Brazil

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Forgotten use of Streets

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Each passing day it is more common to perceive the streets as obstacles – for traveling, resting, eating, meeting people, exercising, shopping – and ultimately living. After all, who wants to waste precious time in noisy, stinking and unsafe places like many urban streets? Not long ago it was different. The streets were not only used for transit, but also a daily living space for people; harboring lots of activities and having social functions.

It’s important to mention that we are talking about something different from segregated parks built with the purpose to provide a more ‘natural’ environment for walking and relaxing. These parks are not integrated with the rest of the city network. They have explicit boundaries and their own function. They aren’t incorporated in daily activities and in many cases they aren’t the best commuting routes.

One should not be forced to go to specific places to find peace and some fresh air. The whole city should be planned to offer places like these in the streets and areas that the citizens already use when they are going to work, school and other everyday activities.

Nowadays those uses for public space seem completely dissociated. Last week, I was biking to work after having lunch with my wife when I saw a friend of mine. The first thing he asked me was: “I didn’t know you were on vacation!” And he wasn’t the only one who asked me things like that. It is unconceivable to many people that you are really going somewhere (to work, to school, to pay your bills…) and at the same time you are enjoying doing it, exercising and meeting people. Commuting is supposed to be a bad time in your day; otherwise it’s not commuting. And there are many examples where municipalities, for the sake of safety and mobility, discourage any kind of use for the streets except linking A to B the fastest way possible. Ironically, that is exactly one of the reasons that we have to spend more and more time inside a car.

By driving, not only do you reduce your perception of your natural surroundings, but you also compromise conviviality and livability, especially in areas with heavy traffic. A friend once told me that when he worked for a company located in the Greater Curitiba, Brazil, an area (21km distant from his house) he knew at least 26 different paths to get there by bike. And along they way he was always discovering a new corner or square, without fearing getting stuck on traffic jams.

Streets can be great places, if we make them so…

Luis Patricio

Curitiba,Brazil

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