The banal occurrences of daily life in
Rio flit between the poles of the annoying and ridiculous. If it were almost any other city in the world, Rio de Janeiro would be completely impossible to aguentar (deal with), but because it’s so staggeringly beautiful, we accept and even encourage the magnificently wrongheaded race to the bottom that qualifies as public policy and urban planning. Comparable to an airbrushed super-model, Rio looks great and is seductively pouty but it’s a fragile image that belies serious eating disorders, exploitation, macho blinkeredness, and complicit consumers who fail to question a system that sends millions of women to the gym to reduce their bodies while their male counterparts get their vanity muscles inflated to cartoonish proportions.
An example, if I may. The ferry that crosses
Guanabara Bay is run by a private company via a concession given by the State Government. This is also known as privatization. Recently, the same idiot who was responsible for the bonde disaster in Santa Teresa (State Secretary of Transportation Júlio Lopes) allowed Barcas S.A. to eliminate night-time service because the company was not making enough money. There is virtually no bus service after mid-night so if you’re caught on the wrong side of the bay, the only practical solution is taxi: R$40 – 50. In this instance, the idiocy is allowing the incompetent state secretary of transportation to act on behalf of the private company.
Last week, I attempted to go by bicycle from
Rio to Niterói. Arriving at Praça XV was a challenge because there is no bike path that links anything in the center of town to anything else. One has to brave the inferno of Rua Primeiro de Março where there is an excellent chance of becoming another statistic: one cyclist is killed every ten days in Rio de Janeiro. Once to the ferry, in addition to the R$2.80 passenger fee, the intrepid cyclist must pay an additional R$4.70 for the bike! R$15 for a two way passage. Ridiculous and illegal according to a judgment handed down in June.
To make the ridiculous something else, in order to take one’s bike onto the ferry I was told I had to roll through the disembarkation where I fought against a literal human tide in order to put my bike on the waiting platform. After parting the crowd, I arrived on the platform and handed my baggage ticket to security. Just then, the bell signaling immediate departure tolled, but not for me. I had my boarding ticket in hand and wanted to take my bike and enter the ferry. In an amazing leap of logistics, I proffered said ticket to the security guard but in an equally stunning leap backwards he told me that I had to leave my bike with him, return to the front of the terminal, pass through the turnstiles, go back to where I was at that very moment, hand over my ticket stub, and then take my bike onto the ferry. I argued. The Napoleonic supervisor arrived, chest inflated with absolute rules to follow, absolutely. I huffed and puffed while the boat left without me.
Is there a greater dis-stimulus to riding a bike in this city than charging more than twice as much to bring a bike across the bay? To make matters worse, riding a bike in Niterói is far more dangerous than it is in
Rio. As I was formally complaining to Barcas S.A., I was told that this dance-around-the-turnstile practice was formalized after some idiot decided to ride his bike onto the ferry and ended up hurting someone. This is the problem: the policies and rules of most public spaces and entities in are designed to attend to the lowest possible level of human decision making, that is, the idiots rule or the rule of the idiots. To wit, one idiot does something idiotic with a bike, the rest of us are treated like idiots who have to follow idiotic and inflexible rules designed to relieve anyone who receives a salary from having to take any responsibility for what happens under their watch. Brazil
Idiotic transportation practice #2: the new BRT lines will have no bicycle lanes. Even though the Glorious Prince of Rio de Janeiro likes to show off on his bike and skateboard from time to time, there is no safe, functional way of getting around this city on a bike, nor will there be, even though it is in practice much faster to go between most of Rio’s Zona Sul neighborhoods by bike than it is by bus, metro, or car. The OGloBobo reports about the city being “disposed” to bike traffic only showed pictures from the bike path in Botafogo and Flamengo. They must take us for idiots, which I suppose we are. The only days that you can put a bike on the Metro are Sundays and feriados and there is no bus in the city that has the capacity for bikes, nor will there be. This idiotic lack, combined with the increasingly insane and maddening traffic situation in the city, will eventually clog the city so tightly that not even Dick Cheney’s heart surgeon will be able to fix the problem.
Next up: more idiocy from RIOTOUR, the FERJ pigs at the trough, Orlando Silva in the crosshairs.