9 de nov de 2012

A question of transport.

A foreigners guide to navigating through the Porto Alegre gridlock.

I have a fear of flying, so much so, that every time I board a pressurized cabin, I have to tranquilize myself with the hard stuff. No other mode of transport has ever really had the same effect on me - until now.

And after yesterday's near death experience with a truck, which accelerated while I tried to cross a road, the second incident of its kind this week, I wondered: Is being a pedestrian in Porto Alegre any safer than, say, being a motorcyclist in South East Asia?

Upon moving to Brazil, a languagebarrier was something to expect, but the vast cultural differences were something I was not prepared for. I have had to rewrite the rules of almost everything I know, but crossing the road was something I hadn’t considered, until now.

Pretty quickly, I realized that the traffic here has a different set of rules. Cars in general rule the streets, pedestrians are a nuisance. Avoid motorbikes like rats. Never expect drivers to indicate. As for red lights, footpaths and pedestrian crossings, they’re just for aesthetics.

So the question is, how does one get around in Porto Alegre? Cars perhaps? Only if you are rich, very tolerant of road rage, and happy to be carjacked. Cycling maybe? With a distinct lack of cycle lanes, extremely hot weather and, cyclists being sworn enemies of drivers, cycling is for the very courageous at this moment in time.

As options were thin on the ground, I decided to give public transport a go. Admittedly, I hail from a city where the public transport has a lot of room for improvement, but Gaucho public transport is a world away from what I’m used to.

For starters, the only real extensive mode of transport in the city is buses. There are bus stops, but timetables or an indication of which buses actually stop at a particular pointdoesn’t exist. POA buses are a bit like the end of rainbows. I know they go somewhere, but the exact location remains an enigma.

bus stop in Porto Alegre, RS, Brazil
Bus stop in Porto Alegre, RS, Brazil

Brazilians do love their stamps, documents and pieces of paper, so if you want to obtain a bus pass its not a simple as buying it in a shop. It’s communist style bureaucracy on Speed. Give yourself a good month, plan for a number of ‘certified’ documents. Then go to one place to apply for the pass, pay for the fares in a specific bank, and then get the fare credit added to your pass in another place. Easy.

So, If you’re unwilling to bus it -standing in 35 degrees; squeezed up against a stranger, have the cash and nerves to drive, or pay gringo taxi fairs, what’s the best option to get from A to B? Possibly cycling, if there were sufficient cycle lanes. As for me, I will remain a pedestrian warrior for now, fighting for my share of city space. Perhaps in decades to come this will change, and Brazil will up its game.

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4 comments / comentários:

Hey! I loved your blog!
I'm glad to see lots of foreigners coming to Porto Alegre! I myself lived abroad for almost five years. I came back to Brazil last november!
i'd be glad to meet you guys for a drink some time!

drop me a line: m.schenckel@hotmai.com

Hello Marcio.
Thanks for visiting and thanks for the comment!

Hi Jucemar,

Thanks for visiting and thanks for the tip!

Best regards,

Hah, couldn't agree more about the dangers of being a pedestrian here. And the worst offenders are the motorbike delivery people, followed closely by the taxi drivers.

It's a minor miracle I haven't had a heart attack yet.

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