The emergence of new bike lanes in Porto Alegre might be restricted to city sidewalks, reducing the area for pedestrians. Bike lanes may only be implemented if the existing streets are extended, without taking space from cars, or reducing areas where vehicles can be parked. This might happen if the bill sponsored by John Carlos Nedel (PP), which began to be processed last week, is approved.
The author of the bill emphasizes that it is in favor of bike lanes, but that the implementation should be preceded by planning so that there is more security for bikers, and so that space is only taken away from cars when there are other transportation alternatives. On the other hand, cyclists argue that the measure is not attuned to the contemporary discussion of urban mobility.
"I'm not focusing on the cars," says the author of the proposal. Nedel believes his idea is being misinterpreted. Emphasizing that he is a supporter of bike lanes and was a proponent of the Pedaling for Life event, part of the official municipal calendar in 2014, he says ensuring the safety of those riding is critical. "Planning is required, we can not do these works without criteria, as occurs today. The structure of the city can not be changed, as these activists want. Today, the bike lanes are damaging to trade, since they remove parking spaces, and are unsafe for those who use them. Then, accidents happen and people will complain about the lanes." Later on, he notes that many of the streets and avenues that will be extended in the city already include bike lanes in their projects, which would be ideal. Aside from that, two options exist for new lanes dedicated to bicycles: either the width of the roads increases or the space for cyclists would be on the sidewalks. Nedel defends himself and says he is a supporter of bike lanes, but is most concerned with the safety of the cyclist.
The Councilman who is at the base of the Fortunati government (PDT) in the House cites that currently more than 800,000 cars travel throughout the Capital daily. With this high amount of vehicles, Nedel ponders if there is an "intelligent" way to reduce space used for vehicular traffic. This would only be possible if there were more alternatives to automobile use, such as surface trains, subway and bus lanes, among others. "I'm not focusing on cars, this is just the reality. If you look at Berlin or New York, those are places where there are many options which allow citizens to leave their cars at home. They want a bike path in Assis Brazil, for example, but what are the conditions? When there is a subway, we can remove the bus lane and will have room for bike path," he argues.
A supporter of cyclists, Councilman Marcelo Sgarbossa (PT), classifies the bill as a setback. He claims that the bike lanes are already made in the way that Nedel describes. "In Restinga (the coastal forest in East Brazil) transportation planning has been run this way, including allowing bikes to take over the sidewalk. In reality, the project will formalize what is already in progress. It is the policy of the Municipality that 'bike lanes should have space'" he criticizes.
Under the new bill, according to Sgarbossa, bike lanes would be limited to sites with very wide sidewalks, (about nine feet) which are rare. The PT views the parliamentary proposition as a backlash from conservative sectors. "They do not want to take away space from cars. It is a limited view, they only think of the cars and did not consider the fight against childhood obesity, improvement in school performance, or the design of a more humane city," Sgarbossa contrasts.
What sort of resistance do bike activists face in your city?
Original article, originally published in Portuguese, here.
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