June 02, 2009

Taking a SAMBA Down Rio’s New Bikeways

Access to some of the world’s most picturesque bikeways gets a boost as Rio de Janeiro expands its bicycle network with new shared use lanes for cyclists. These changes come just months after the city launched a pilot public bike sharing scheme known as SAMBA – Solução Alternativa Para mobilidade por Bicicletas de Aluguel, which roughly translates to Alternative Mobility Solution Bike Rentals.

On Sunday 31 May, the city inaugurated 7 blocks of streets with reduced speeds for cars (30 kph – 19 mph) and introduced shared lane pavement markers for cyclists that connect a metro station and an adjacent SAMBA station to the sand, waves and palm trees of the seaside bikeway in Copacabana that has existed since 1991.

“This bike sharing system is sensational,” said Mayor Eduardo Paes, as he tried out a SAMBA bike for the first time, at the inauguration of the shared lanes. These 7 blocks are part of a planned network of 50 kilometers (31 miles) of bicycle facilities designed to provide safe routes for Rio’s small but well-implemented pilot bike-sharing scheme. Mayor Paes led a parade of Municipal and State authorities, cycling enthusiasts and local NGOs on a ride along newly designated streets for biking, where cyclists and cars will share road space.

“Bicycles make sense for Rio – they are efficient, non-polluting, and are perfect for the millions of short trips that people make everyday in Rio. My administration will be helping the public bike system grow, in addition to implementing many more kilometers of bikeways,” the Mayor told reporters.

Serttel, the company that set up and manages SAMBA, uses technology whereby users unlock the bikes by cell phone. Serttel President, Angelo Leite, said that this makes the system much less expensive to implement and operate.

SAMBA currently has 8 stations and 80 bicycles, all in the Copacabana neighborhood. The following phases will include an additional 18 stations in the neighboring Ipanema, Leblon and Lagoa neighborhoods, to be rolled out in June and July 2009, with an additional 24 stations coming to the more centrally located neighborhoods of Botafogo, Flamengo, Centro and Tijuca in October 2009, for a total of 50 stations and 500 bicycles.

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