Only three bus lines (537, 538, 539) serve the residents of Rocinha, in Rio's South Zone, one of the largest favelas in Latin America. While the IBGE says the favela had 70,000 inhabitants in the 2010 census, the residents who live there say there are 200,000 people, while the Data Favela census estimates the population at 150,000. What is certain, however, is that these three lines are not enough to bring workers, students and other residents to other neighborhoods in the city.
The Rocinha slum is extremely populous and continues to grow in a disorderly manner on a high hill, full of narrow streets and alleys where buses or vans can not pass. Because of this, residents are forced to use motorcycle taxis to come and go from the favela, since all three roads that go up the Estrada da Gávea reach Rua 1. From there, the vast majority of people depend on mototaxis in order to arrive at their homes. The problem is further aggravated by the reduced fleet of buses on each line.
These circumstances are not new nor are they exclusive to the Rocinha community in Rio. But in the favela, the number of motorcycle taxi drivers would surprise anyone. Those who live in Rocinha, or are just passing through, admit that there is no escape. "It's a little confusing, but I think it's important in order to access some houses," says Lilian Melo, 27, acknowledging the difficulty for other transport methods to access very high places. Ms. Melo adds, "If it is a function of government to improve the mobility conditions for people, then it must be a right. After all, we pay taxes for that."
Currently, UPP agents control the permits and the inspection of documents for motorcycle taxi drivers in Rocinha. However many of these drivers, according to residents, use fake licenses and false vests. The report states that the agents were not found to provide information or clarification on the operations of the motorcycle taxi service in the community.
The surveillance of traffic rules is done by agents of the Operations Center of the Municipality of Rio (CET-Rio). Among them is Ricardo Silva who says that the motorcycle taxi drivers contribute to the community's ease of mobility. However, not everything is perfect: "Sometimes they do not obey and it hinders us. The motorcycle taxi drivers that operate correctly and follow traffic rules are welcome," he said. When asked about accidents involving motorcycle taxis, he points out that many occur because pedestrians do not respect the crosswalks: "Despite being a community, disobedience also exists here."
Disobedience cited by Ricardo Silva is classified as recklessness by bus drivers. One of the most frequent complaints is that the moto-taxis will often perform stunts right in front of the buses or will "play," which can lead to serious accidents, since the buses are always very crowded, and take longer to brake due to their weight.
"If you're in a hurry, late for work, what would you do? Take a motorcycle taxi, right? Motorcycles do not create traffic. They (buses) create traffic and slow everything," says one motorcycle taxi driver who identified himself as Michael. He and all other respondents support the thesis that buses and larger vehicles hinder traffic and do not respect the bike as a smaller vehicle. Besides him, others who wanted to remain anonymous said there is a "competition" between different means of transport creating constant feuds and an exchanges of insults: "Here, every man is for himself."
Residents do not deny the importance of motorcycle taxis, but reinforce that public transportation is a right to be guaranteed to all citizens. A Social Work student, Elaine Gomes, 24, has spent her entire life in Rocinha. She uses public transport every day to go to the PUC-Rio, in Gávea, where she studies. On weekends, she uses the motorcycle taxi service to get around the favela and says it is important to consider this form of alternative transportation. However, recently a 14 year old boy suffered an accident caused by a mototaxi driver and no one took responsibility for the accident. The boy was not even rescued: "I see the Rocinha as a precarious area in terms of transport. There is a lack of respect for the residents. Much needs to be improved," Gomes complained.
Does your community or your neighborhood struggle with a lack of transportation options? How are those obstacles being resolved?
Original article, originally published in Portuguese, here.
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