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Cyclists in Fortaleza, Brazil Win Bike Lane After Pressuring Authorities

[All links lead to Portuguese language pages except when otherwise noted.]

Cyclists in Fortaleza will soon have a space reserved for their own transportation.

As of September 16, 2013, the Transit, Public Services and Citizenship Municipal Authority, known in Portuguese by its acronym AMC, will begin the implementation of a bike lane on Ana Bilhar street, a few blocks from the beach in the Meireles district. The implementation of the bike lane is considered a victory resulting from the mobilization of cyclists, especially of the group Massa Crítica Fortaleza (Critical Mass Fortaleza).

On August 4, members of the group took matters into their own hands and created a bike lane on the same street. The audiovisual group Verso de Pé Quebrado – Narrativas (Verse in Broken Meter – Narratives) recorded the their actions on video and shared it on social sites that same day, generating commentary and praise. It’s worth noting the ingenious equipment devised by the members to paint the lane, making use of a shopping cart and tubing to spread the paint on the asphalt.

The AMC, however, removed the “citizen” bike lane on the night of August 5, alleging a lack of dialogue with the authority responsible for public roads.

The group then scheduled a meeting with workers of the AMC to pressure them into separating part of the road with paint into a bike lane. The AMC decided, finally, to reinstate the bike lane, this time officially.

Respect for cyclists and biking safety

Days before the bike lane action, a cyclist was run over and killed, shocking enthusiasts of two-wheeled transportation. On July 25, 61-year-old Francisco Severiano Filho was biking on Avenida da Universidade after getting off work when he was run over by a bus and killed instantly. Following the international tradition of honoring cyclists killed in such accidents with a bicycle painted white, members of Massa Crítica and their supporters erected a white bicycle in an operation they called Bicicleta Fantasma (Ghost Bicycle).

Bicicleta Fantasma em homenagem ao ciclista Francisco Severiano, morto por atropelamento. Foto do perfil Massa Crítica Fortaleza no Facebook.

Ghost Bicycle in honor of cyclist Francisco Severiano, who died after being run over. Photo from the profile Massa Crítica Fortaleza on Facebook, used with permission.

Fortaleza provides bike lanes separated with a barrier on some avenues, but there is only one bike lane cordoned off simply by paint, located on Benjamin Brasil street in the Maraponga district. The bike lane on Ana Bilhar street, which will be two kilometers (1.2 miles) long, will be the second in the city separated by paint.

Facebook user Felipe Alves happily shared the new and took advantage of the opportunity to provoke skeptics:

Alguém ainda vai dizer que reivindicar não funciona? E essa é só o começo…
Parabéns Massa Crítica Fortaleza e Associação dos Ciclistas Urbanos de Fortaleza – CICLOVIDA!

Is anybody still going to say that making public demands doesn’t work? And this is only the beginning. Congratulations Massa Crítica and the Association of Urban Cyclists of Fortaleza-CICLOVIDA!

The decision by the Municipal Authority was made public on September 13, just days before the start of Semana da Mobilidade (Mobility Week), an event organized by the Association of Urban Cyclists of Fortaleza-CICLOVIDA (Associação dos Ciclistas Urbanos de Fortaleza – CICLOVIDA) and by Massa Crítica designed to make people think about the bicycle as a viable alternative for urban mobility. Programming includes discussions, outings, and activities designed to raise awareness with vehicle motorists, culminating in World Car Free Day [en] on September 22.

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