Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The blog is dead. Long live the blog.

It's the end of another year. We're leaving for Ireland in less than a week now and this will be my final post of 2012 as I'm going to be far too busy (or possibly just too lazy) to write anything else after today.

Needless to say, we're all quite excited. This will actually be our first Christmas away from São Paulo since moving out here, as we didn't go back until well into January in our first year and didn't go back at all last year. Of course, the sudden drop in temperature is going to come as something of a shock. I see that this afternoon Dublin might even make it as high as 6 degrees. Meanwhile, back in São Paulo, we're going to be looking at 34 degrees of muggy, overcast sweltering heat. Oh joy.

Anyway, on to more important matters. Not only is this going to be the last post of 2012, it's also going to be the last at this address. It would appear that I've used up my entire allowance of free photo storage space and if I want any more I'm going to have to pay for it. And not just buy it, but rent it. Every month. Forever. Well, this being the Christmas season, and me being a somewhat Scrooge-like blogger, I've decided not to bother. Instead, I've just created a new account, with its own new photo storage allowance, and this should see me comfortably through to the end of our time out here and the official end to all my ramblings.

So, from now on, if you want to follow our adventures, you can do so at;

I tried to make it look just the same as before, for the sake of continuity, but for some reason the background colours are a bit different now and my html really isn't up to putting it right. Anyway, this way you can easily tell if you're in the old blog or the new one.

So, bye for now. Have a happy Christmas and I'll be back next year.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Street pedallers

One of the first things Helen wrote after moving out here was a short piece about cycling in São Paulo and how dangerous it was. You can read it here, if you like.


But a lot has changed over the past two years, or at least it has in our part of town. These days more and more people seem to be getting on their bikes, and it's not just for a gentle Sunday morning pootle around the conveniently deserted roads either. People really seem to be using their bikes to get somewhere particular now; to work, to school, to the shops.

There are a few reasons for this. First, although the car is still king in São Paulo, these days it's becoming more of a constitutional, rather than an absolute monarchy. About eighteen months ago a new campaign was launched called Respeite o Pedestre (Respect the Pedestrian) with the aim of reminding drivers that the law continues to apply to them, even when they're in their car. This may seem somewhat obvious, but at the time the campaign was started, two people a day were being killed in São Paulo by being run over while crossing the road. Okay, so sometimes pedestrians are stupid as well, and do things like try to cross the road by dodging between speeding vehicles, while talking on their phone and looking the wrong way. But not often. Nearly always, it's the driver's fault.

So drivers were asked to do various things including;

• Reduce speed when approaching an intersection.
• Indicate in advance before making a turn.
• Give priority to pedestrians who have started crossing the road.
• Stop as soon as people begin to cross the crosswalk.
• Always stop at a red light when there is traffic.
• Expect the pedestrian to finish crossing even after the green light.
• Observe the speed limit on the road.

To which I have to say, well, duh!

But to give the average Brazilian driver some credit, the campaign seems to have been a huge success. I now find that I can cross the road pretty successfully on most occasions, even with children in tow, and drivers really will stop if I'm standing right in front of them when they try to turn. And clearly, respect for the pedestrian has given drivers the idea that they can respect other people as well; other drivers for a start, and also cyclists - especially those odd ones who seem to like to cycle on the road instead of the pavement.

Another reason for the increase in the number of cyclists is because of the increase in the number of cycle paths. Between 2006 and 2011, the Municipal Government built nearly 15km of new cycle paths - which doesn't seem an awful lot to me in a city of 18 million people and nearly 8 million registered vehicles, but they seem fairly pleased with their efforts. What they lack in quantity they've more than made up for in quality however - at least the bits I've seen. Along Avenida Brigadeiro Faria Lima - the huge, eight-lane beast that crawls its way along past the end of our nice little street - they've built a lovely new two-lane cycle path that runs along the central reservation. It's wide, meanders gently around trees and benches all along its route, and is safely separated from the traffic with a wide grass verge and (where necessary) safety barriers.

But probably the biggest incentive to would-be cyclists is seeing other cyclists out on the streets. I know that when we first moved out here I missed my bike terribly, but one look at the roads reassured me that I wouldn't have been using it much anyway. Now I'm not so sure. I still don't see as many cyclists out there as there should be, but at least now there seems to be an general attitude that the bicycle is a perfectly acceptable alternative to the car. Or almost. São Paulo's roads still kill something like one cyclist every week.

São Paulo even has its own rent-a-bike scheme now as well, Bike Sampa. It's fairly new and I only noticed the distinctive orange bikes for the first time last weekend, but since then I have seen one or two of them around the place.

I haven't given it a go myself yet, but then I don't really have anywhere to go on a bike. The school and the supermarket are about the only two places I go on a regular basis and both of them are an easy walk away. And I was never much of a Sunday pootler either, so I doubt I'll be biking up and down the middle of Faria Lima just because I can. I think I'll save my cycling for when I'm back in the UK where I can at least remember which side of the road I'm supposed to be on.

Look, this year even Great Big Scary Santa's on his bike. And I really can't see many cars arguing with him over who gets priority!