Experiences and reflections: cycling in Brasilia during the pandemic
Updated: Jun 1, 2022
Hello, my name is Carla Costa and I am an architect and urban planner from Brasilia, Brazil, who is passionate about cities. I do believe that cycling is the best way to get to know a city and normally that is what I do when I first arrive in a new one. I have been collecting cycling experiences and that is why I wanted to start to collaborate with BUX and share a Latin American perspective.
I remember when it all started in March last year when I believed this pandemic would not last over a month. After weeks of leaving the apartment only for groceries shopping, I started using the nearby public spaces as my escape. Living with a 9-year-old boy can push your buttons.
The city was so quiet, very few cars were on the street. It felt like life was on a pause. I remember when I took the bike for a stroll, just to unwind from the home office, cooking, cleaning, and endless zoom meetings. It felt good biking around without a particular destination in mind, like a tourist in your own city. I felt safer than usual with the reduction of general traffic. Just me and the wind on my face. Sometimes I would take the empty car lanes to ride since there were not many cars around. Although Brasilia has one of the highest numbers of kilometers dedicated to cycle lanes in the whole country, they are not continuous, it is still much a city designed for cars, where 40 cyclists die per year in car-related accidents So, it is understandable why people and I included are afraid of riding a bike alongside with cars.
After a while, I decided to give a purpose to my rides during the pandemic. Like everyone else, I missed social contact and missed my friends. Therefore, I decided to take my bike and bring some treats to them. Everyone was afraid of personal contact back then, so I would just go and drop something at his or her doors. I baked, I made fruit salads, I borrowed books, chocolate for Easter and I even did serenades. I felt like I was delivering love and that made my biking in the city extra special. It was a win-win situation: I would enjoy the city, exercise, and see my friends, even from a distance. Furthermore, it was an opportunity for my son to meet other children since the schools in Brasilia were closed for over a year. Taking all the precautions necessary, riding a bike and visiting friends that had other kids in public spaces was his only chance for minimal kid interaction.
Brasilia is a great city to bike, apart from the great distances, it is fairly flat and the greenery is certainly the best aspect. It feels like you are constantly in a park. No wonder it is called a garden city. What had changed with the pandemic was certainly this sense of quietness, I felt like I was in one of those apocalypse movies. Riding between trees is relaxing and the intermittent shadows are pleasant when the day is too hot. My favorite aspect of riding in Brasilia is the chance to collect fruits on the way. I already memorized where I can find the mango, avocados, guavas trees, and berries. I would always stop in my way when I spot a potential ripe treat. Depending on the fruit season, you can often see people doing the same.
I started recording those rides on a biking app so I could have the route registered and try to push myself to go a little bit further every week. Although the pandemic disrupted our lives globally, I will remember these biking rides as good memories from these challenging times.
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