The Bicycle is Mightier Than the Chopper in São Paulo, Brazil

The average commuter in São Paulo, Brazil spends nearly three hours a day stuck in traffic. Gridlock is so prevalent and stifling that the wealthy prefer to get about via helicopter. But the recent São Paulo Intermodal Challenge suggests that human-powered ground transport may be the way to go. PSFK reports:

The means of transportation chosen ranged from cars, bikes, motorbikes, and a helicopter to buses, metro, their own feet and even a wheelchair. Contrary to all forecasts, a biker won the challenge, with a total time of 22 minutes — more than 10 minutes faster than the person on the helicopter, who spent a total of 33 minutes and 30 seconds between going to the heliport, waiting for takeoff clearance, flying and landing. The car came way behind, with a total time of 1:22 — slower than the runner, who took 1:06, the bus (1:11) and just 10 minutes faster than the person who chose to walk the whole path (1:32).

And congratulations to Rio de Janeiro for winning the 2016 Summer Olympics bid! I wonder how much the city’s public transit plan had an effect on the result?  From the IOC page:

The competition venues will be clustered in four zones – Barra, Copacabana, Deodoro and Maracanã – and connected by a high-performance transport ring. Nearly half of the athletes will be able to reach their venues in less than 10 minutes, and almost 75 per cent will do so in less than 25 minutes.

  • ZA

    If any of you care to know how bad a typical car commute in Sao Paolo can be, I caught this report a few months back:

    I’m not surprised that the car came near-last, since I remember ‘Top Gear’ had a similar competition of car vs. marathon runner through the streets of London.

  • This is just stunt show.

    First of all the distance traveled is only 10 km. This is not a efficient range for helicopter travel. I’m not surprise that it does not win. The actual fight time is probably less than 5 minutes if they don’t pad all the waiting around time in it.

    Secondly the bicyclist looks like a pro-rider rather than doing something a normal person can do. He achieved an overall speed of 27 km/h. This is respectable speed on an open road but simply amazing in a gridlocked traffic. Did he ever stop at red light? His riding style is hazardous as you see him weaving between car lane in the video. More so if you consider the cars are going at only 7 km/h on average. He is basically zipping between 2 lines of near idle traffic at full speed! Sounds like extreme sport to me.

  • jason

    Heli-commuting has more to do with rampant kidnappings (and ear-removal) than with traffic. Check of the documentary, Manda Bala, and you’ll see why wealthy people are taking to the skies…

  • ZA

    In case you’d like to know more about the race, this Portuguese-speaking program covers more of it, focusing on the facilities available for the wheelchair-enabled.

    @ Wai Yip Tung – Actually, I think your cultural context if off in this case. 10km is a reasonable test from one downtown point to another in a city as large and congested as Sao Paolo. Clearly the film is meant to make a statement about the congestion, and of air pollution, but so long as all competitors start at the same time and spot (as they did), then the contest is fair. After all, anyone would cry foul if you gave any contestant a start advantage.

    Also, I don’t know what a ‘pro-rider’ looks like, as that rider was fit, but not Tour de France fit. There were plenty of scenes of both rapid riding and slowing down to wind through traffic, entirely matching the norm for motorcyclists in Sao Paolo (which you too quickly write off as ‘extreme sport’). And um, “red light” – what’s that? This is congested Sao Paolo we’re talking about here.

    Check out the video I posted earlier to see for yourself what the streets are like every day, hour after hour, day and night, in Sao Paolo. My surprise was to see as much highway movement as shown from the helicopter on the Intermodal Challenge video.

    @ Jason – sure, crime is the primary motive for both helicopter rides and armored cars for Sao Paolo’s super-elite…but in the face of wider social and economic challenges, a statement such as the one the Intermodal Challenge poses is an important one: this isn’t the only transport solution for all the middle classes to strive for – *there is another way.*

  • @Wai: In 2007, my commuting took about 3 to 4 hours, by bus and train, to cover a distance of less than 10km (work to university).

    I wanted to try cycling, but was discouraged by the high crime rate, total lack of bike lanes, and driver aggressiveness.


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