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Cycling collective helps beginners to ride around the South of São Paulo and to appreciate the spaces of the city

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By Laura Dourado, from Agência Mural*

Bike Zona Sul encourages the use of bicycles for leisure, tourism and alternative transport

In 2013, the 34-year-old analysist, Paulo Alves, began to share his bike rides from Grajaú to Ibirapuera on social media, in the South of São Paulo. This is how the page Bike Zona Sul emerged, with posts about routes, landscapes, diversions and new cycle paths in the region. The idea received a lot of attention and people were very interested. “People got together, because in the South there aren’t any cycling platforms”, comments Paulo.

Paulo Alves, creator of Bike Zona Sul, waves the flag of the Pedal do Abraço Guarapiranga. Photo: Ira Romão/Agência Mural

The initiative became a collective of cyclists who encourage the use of bicycles as a means of transport, leisure and tourism in the city. The Facebook page, currently with 24,000 followers, is the main channel for organizing the meetings and actions, which brought about new perspectives. “I fell in love with São Paulo after I started to ride my bike”, says the 42-year-old administrative assistant Francineide Veloso, who has been riding with the collective for the past 3 years. For her, the bicycle promotes connections with the city. “You are able to fall in love with a city that, suddenly, changes and is no longer a concrete jungle. It is a city that deserves to be loved”, she explains.

Paulo Alves (esq.) as one of the cycling guides to the Barragem Park. Photo: Ira Romão/Agência Mural

Paulo forms part of the Cycling Committee (CTB)  –  a space for discussion about public law along with the community to address the demands of the cyclists. Created in 2015, it serves as a consulting space for the City Council Transport (CMTT) and it played an important role in the implementation of more than 450km of cycle paths in the city of São Paulo.

As well as participation in dialogue with the management authority, the BZS also promotes actions for the community. The night bike ride Bike Zona Sul is an event which forms local cycling groups in different neighborhoods of the region, the collective holds the first meeting and then the cyclists continue with their group.

Bicycles together in the Praça do Ciclista on their way to the Pedal do Abraço Guarapiranga. Photo: Ira Romão/Agência Mural

In Bike Zona Sul Cicloturismo, the members organize touristic routes through the Polo de Ecoturismo in São Paulo. The outings generally go from Grajaú or from the Rio Pinheiros cycle path; some of the bike rides go towards Templo Quan-Inn, near the Varginha Terminal; to Cachoeira do Marsilac, on the Estrada do Capivari; and to the Vale dos Templos, in Itapecerica da Serra.

Bicycles together in the Praça do Ciclista on their way to the Pedal do Abraço Guarapiranga. Photo: Ira Romão/Agência Mural

During these bike rides people’s lives have changed. The lawyer Amelia Farias, 51 years old, began to ride over 4 years ago in order to recover from depression after her son died. “The bike was something that gave me life. My work colleagues began to use bikes and I found it really interesting”. Today, she cycles 20 kilometres to work 3 days during the week and she has lost 24 kilos. Soon after starting to cycle alone; she came across the collective on social media and started to get involved. “The importance of riding in a group is the friendship which you form with the people, they motivate you even more”, she affirms with enthusiasm.

All the bike rides are organised through the Facebook group Bike Zona Sul and anyone is welcome. The only requirement is that you must read the safety recommendations on the website beforehand.

The opportunity to have experiences such as this one could be a lot closer than you think! Have a go taking part in Challenge Day. The campaign takes place every year on the last Wednesday of May. There are over 3 thousand cities that get involved, both in Brazil and in 13 countries of the American continent such as Argentina, Chile, Cuba, Mexico, Dominican Republic, Uruguay and Venezuela. Find out more!

*Series of reports produced by Agência Mural de Jornal das Periferias, whose mission is to minimize the existing gap of information and contribute to the deconstruction of stereotypes about the peripheries of Greater São Paulo.