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Porto Alegre's urban mobility and the Critical Mass, Brazil

On 25 February 2011, an automobile driver ran over the Critical Mass of Porto Alegre. He left behind 17 cyclists injured. As a response, a Foro Mundial de la Bicicleta was created,


This is a conflict on the use of urban space and on the means of urban transport, a conflict because of claims in favor of pedestrians and cyclists.  Since the early 1990s, Critical Mass rides take place in hundreds of cities globally, generally on the last Friday evening of every month. They are meant to counter the vulnerability single riders normally experience by gathering a group of cyclists that is large enough to temporarily take over roads.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Porto Alegre's urban mobility and the Critical Mass, Brazil
State or province:Rio Grande do Sul
Location of conflict:Porto Alegre
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Infrastructure and Built Environment
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Urban development conflicts
Transport infrastructure networks (roads, railways, hydroways, canals and pipelines)
Specific commodities:Land
Ecosystem Services
Disproportionate use of urban space by cars. The commodity casing the conflict is cars, and urban planning at the service of the cars.
Project Details and Actors
Project details

Brazil is a car focused country. It has high traffic accident rates since 1960 after motor vehicles became dominant on roads [10]. Brazil ranks high among the most dangerous countries, with the world’s most dangerous roads. Pedestrians and cyclists account for 10,000 deaths per year, and the number of deaths in cyclists is increasing (over 1,500 in 2005) [11].

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Type of populationUrban
Start of the conflict:25/02/2011
Relevant government actors:City Hall of Porto Alegre
Public Prosecutor Porto Alegre
EPTC (Porto Alegre`s Department of Transportation)
Secretary of Local Governance
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Critical Mass San Francisco:
Foro Mundial de la Bicicleta:
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Neighbours/citizens/communities
Social movements
Recreational users
Forms of mobilization:Artistic and creative actions (eg guerilla theatre, murals)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Land occupation
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Occupation of buildings/public spaces
"Critical mass" of cyclists
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Other Environmental impacts
Potential: Air pollution, Noise pollution
Other Environmental impactsCar occupation of urban space
Health ImpactsVisible: Accidents
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Violations of human rights
Potential: Loss of livelihood, Specific impacts on women, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Project StatusProposed (exploration phase)
Conflict outcome / response:Corruption
Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
Proposal and development of alternatives:As a response, the world forum of the bicycle (FMB- Foro Mundial de la Bicicleta) was created, to raise awareness of violence in traffic against cyclists. The FMB is prepared by citizens. It is now the most important citizen event organized every year pro bicycle in Brazil. It is produced collectively by citizens who look for a sustainable mobility in each city .
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:The driver Ricardo Neis, been sentenced to 12 years in prison. The judge convicts Neis for 11 homicide attempts and five injuries [2], [12].
But, the City hall became a hostile opponent to the critical mass, as Porto Alegre's department of transportation asked for a public investigation of the critical mass. In addition, the city hall has not obeying the municipal law that states that 20% of the traffic fines should be used for bicycling structure [2]
Sources & Materials
References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[7] Carlsson, C., Elliot, L., & Camarena, A. (2012). Shift happens! Critical Mass at 20. San Francisco: Full Enjoyment Books.

[10] Vasconcellos, E. A. (1999). Urban development and traffic accidents in Brazil. Accident Analysis and Prevention, 31, 319–328.
[click to view]

[11] Bacchieri, G., & Barros, A. J. D. (2011). Acidentes de trânsito no Brasil de 1998 a 2010: muitas mudanças e poucos resultados. Revista de Saúde Pública, 45(5), 949–963.
[click to view]

[1] Total wipeout: Sickening moment motorist ploughed through 40 cyclists in road horror (but amazingly no one was killed)
[click to view]

[2] Ciclosfera: Ricardo Neis, el conductor que arrolló a 17 ciclistas en Porto Alegre, condenado a 12 años de prisión
[click to view]

[3] Um repúdio à violência gratuita
[click to view]

[4] A Critical Mass Tragedy Sparks a Bicycle Boom in Brazil
[click to view]

[6]Wikipedia- conflicts Involving the Critical Mass
[click to view]

[12] Bancário que atropelou 17 ciclistas em Porto Alegre é condenado a 12 anos de prisão. Flávio Ilha Colaboração para o UOL, em Porto Alegre 24/11/2016.
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

[5] Documentary about the Critical Mass: We Are Traffic! - Nós Somos Trânsito (parte1)
[click to view]

[8]Protest 1 of March 2011
[click to view]

[9]Car hits cyclists in Porto Alegre
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Sandra La Rota, Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona.
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:2737
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