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  • Writer's pictureIHS Alumni

2015: the year when the Paulista Avenue got a bike path

During my stay in Rotterdam in 2013-2014, the urban aspect that caught my attention the most was the mobility. I was impressed by the variety of qualified ways to move around (tram, metro, bus, bike, car and even walking) and by the efficiency of the public transportation. Being part of this scenario inspired me and gave me hope about the mobility issues in my own city.

As the biggest city of Latin America with around 20 million inhabitants in the metropolitan area (IBGE), São Paulo faces all challenges of an urban development metropole in an emerging country, which includes the mobility. The individual transportation in São Paulo is mainly based in automobiles and for the public transportation the main options are buses and metro, both still in expansion. As Raquel Rolnik, urban planner and professor at USP, said in the documentary “Bikes vs Cars” (Diretor: Fredrik Gertten, 2015), the saturation of the car oriented system in São Paulo opened space for the alternative modes of mobility to emerge, specially the bike. This documentary shows different points of view about the transition of car oriented cities to cities where different types of transportation coexist equally.

Opening of the bike path on Paulista Avenue (photo: Camila Cavalheiro, 2015)

The use of the bike for transportation is a gradual process which is beginning in São Paulo. At first, the use of the bike was considered mainly for leisure. Every sunday in a few avenues, one car lane is used exclusively for bikes. Then the bike as a transport started to be considered. Between 2014 and 2015, the network of bike lanes increased considerably in São Paulo reaching almost 360 km (Source: Municipality of São Paulo). For the new bike lanes to be constructed the car lanes the car lanes were reduced. And this led the many discussions regarding the priority of use of the road and the variety of uses of the streets. The education in the traffic also became a relevant topic since the people need to be educated about how to behave in streets shared between different ways of transportation.

The most important event regarding alternatives for the mobility in São Paulo happened in june of 2015: the opening of the bikepath of Paulista Avenue, the main avenue of the country. Its was a sunday and the whole avenue use was exclusive for bikes and pedestrians, Since then, every sunday the avenue is crowded of people enjoing the avenue. The new bike path and the weekly opening of the Paulista Avenue changes not only the possibilities of transport on the streets but also the relation of the people with the city, the sense of belong.

Opening of the bike path on Paulista Avenue (photo: Camila Cavalheiro, 2015)

Since my return to Brazil after my studies at IHS, this was the first time that I rode a bike on the streets. It was a memorable day for me and for everyone that sees the bike as an alternative for the mobility. It was such an honor to be part of this incredible event. As many other citizens, I intend to use the bike for transportation but I am afraid to share the road with cars and buses. Because of that, I believe that the construction of bike paths will motivate the use of the bike and not the other way around. At least, at the beginning to create a safe initial network. Therefore, the bikepath of Paulista Avenue is a great achievement towards the raise of cyclists in São Paulo.

In addition, as I understood from the Helle Søholt (CEO of the Gehl Architects) TedX speech in 2012, the people will tend to define their urban activities based on their own convenience and needs. For instance, people will choose the transport mode that will take them more comfortably and faster to their destiny. And the social or environmental impact are the consequences of these choices and not the causes. Thus, it is a governmental duty to offer the most environment friendly transport option as the best option for the people´s needs as well.

The streets are the scenario for the most creative and democratic urban initiatives. Little by little we - the people in São Paulo - are realizing that the streets are for all and not only for cars. Consequently we feel more integrated in the city and more responsible for its development, either requiring improvements for the mobility or coexisting harmoniously in the traffic.


I am Camila Cavalheiro, from São Paulo, Brazil. I recently graduated as an architect and urban planner at the University of São Paulo (USP) and I am an UMDSU2 IHS alumna. Besides the formal studies, the main influences in my formation in the urban field were the voluntary work at the NGO TECHO and my own experience in cities.

Simultaneously to my graduation studies, I participated of some projetcs of TECHO as a volunteer. During this experience, I had close contact to real urban issues in the brazilian cities and mainly in the slums. Thus, this was a practical approach that complements the knowledge learned at IHS and USP creating an important basis for my formation as an urban planner.

In 2015, I worked as an intern at the São Paulo Environment Secretariat where I could understand more about the brazilian public sector dynamics and how the public needs are approached and  addressed combined with the interests of various actors. And in 2016 I will contribute to the following research at USP: “Public accountability to residents in contractual urban redevelopment (PARCOUR)”.


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