The risky adventure of cycling in Brazilian cities is nothing new. Again and again, here in this Cyclocosm, journalist Erika Sallum has warned us of the harsh reality experienced in Brazil by those who choose to travel by bicycle. On the last International Women’s Day, Erika wrote: “here, we see more and more women overcoming their fears to practice an act of absurd courage: pedaling in this macho, violent country where rulers and drivers are still reluctant to admit the power that has the bike to change lives and entire nations”.
The size of the social damage caused by current public policies that surround the bicycle universe in this country is impressive. The origins of this drama, for the most part, are in the retrograde culture that prioritizes the automobile industry, in the national policy that has been insisting for years on low-quality education, and in an ideology (now in charge) that denies social and environmental warnings.
Imagine being able to ride your bike every day to work, study or play, knowing that along the way you will not be cursed or threatened, and that your chances of being run over or robbed will be very slim. Imagine even more — earning money from the government to exchange car use for bicycle use, or receive a voucher from your boss every month to spend on whatever you want inside your favorite bike shop.
Utopia? No, it exists! But of course, it’s not here. In France, for example, the government developed a policy to encourage bicycle use for pandemic deconfinement — it invested 20 million Euros in financing the repair of disused bikes (read more here). In the UK, the government offers subsidies of up to 39% on bike purchases through the Cyclescheme programme. The incentive exists since 1999 and is granted to those who choose the bicycle for urban work trips. In the commune of Pesaro, on the east coast of Italy, the local government decided to give the bicycle a leading role in urban transport. Streets were narrowed and hundreds of car spaces were eliminated by the Bicipolitana project.
The results of virtuous policies such as these can be seen in the photographic exhibition “Bike, Cultural Identity”, by journalist Denise Silveira. His photo essay brings us beautiful examples of how European governments and citizens take advantage of the great capabilities of the bike to make urban life much more peaceful, healthy, economic, sustainable and happy, and it exposes the Brazilian delay in making the bike a respectable vehicle, able to improve the lives of citizens.
After appreciating Denise’s works at Unibes Cultural —24 photographs and the documentary short film “Alma de Bicycle”—, it is possible that the viewer may even feel envy of this remote and so fertile reality when comparing it with our visceral and so wobbly. At the very least, indignation is aroused in having to face, once again, the latent war against the use of bicycles in national territory.
In the many snapshots that Denise gathered on three trips across Europe (in 2016, 2018 and 2019), an innate relationship between the European and the bicycle is evident, surrounded by respect and admiration. Denise’s essay began unpretentiously, in 2016 in Belgium, in a reunion with old friends —parents of her deceased partner, Belgian musician Jeroen Raedschelders, who died in 1997 in a car accident— who introduced the journalist to some Flemish strongholds little known to tourists. At the end of the first experiment, all clicked on her cell phone, Denise realized that most of her records captured bicycles in the photographic frame. They were routine situations, snapshots of a real (and charming) life. The journalist then started to invest in the theme, and dedicated special attention to bicycles on the following two trips. Cycling culture was then registered in Germany, Belgium, Ireland, England, Holland and Russia.
For Denise, her experience was marked by the standard of respect given to the bicycle by governments, industry and citizens of that continent. Analyzing her essay, the journalist emphasizes the importance of the space dedicated exclusively to cyclists in the urban structure, such as the “corona lanes” — exclusive bike corridors and parking spaces, created by the city of London for the time of the pandemic.
When comparing the European reality to ours, Denise is sure: “there is a lack of government and business movement to take care of the common cyclist, those who need to use the bike to work. Imagine a woman, a mother, having to pedal from the outskirts and cross a bridge full of cars to reach her work downtown. It’s crazy to do this around here! Our cycle network, in addition to being limited, is poorly designed, not very inclusive, sexist”.
Exposure: Bicycle, Cultural Identity
When: Until September 30, by appointment on the website
Where: Unibes Cultural (next to Sumaré subway station)
How many: Free