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
NamePorto Alegre's urban mobility and the Critical Mass, Brazil
ProvinceRio Grande do Sul
SitePorto 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 CommoditiesLand
Disproportionate use of urban space by cars. The commodity casing the conflict is cars, and urban planning at the service of the cars.
Ecosystem Services
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsBrazil 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].

Cyclists of Porto Alegre recognized that this is not an isolated event. That there is a high traffic violence against cyclists. At the same time, this is a result of stressed drivers, irritated persons behind the steering wheel [3].
Type of PopulationUrban
Start Date25/02/2011
Relevant government actorsCity Hall of Porto Alegre

Public Prosecutor Porto Alegre

EPTC (Porto Alegre`s Department of Transportation)

Secretary of Local Governance
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersCritical Mass San Francisco: http://www.sfcriticalmass.org/

Foro Mundial de la Bicicleta: https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foro_Mundial_de_la_Bicicleta


The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)HIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
When did the mobilization beginIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups MobilizingNeighbours/citizens/communities
Social movements
Recreational users
Forms of MobilizationArtistic 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
OtherCar occupation of urban space
Health ImpactsVisible: Accidents
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Violations of human rights
Potential: Loss of livelihood, Specific impacts on women, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Project StatusProposed (exploration phase)
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCorruption
Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
Development of AlternativesAs 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 as a success?Not Sure
Why? Explain briefly.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 and Materials

[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]


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

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

[3] Um repúdio à violência gratuita
[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]

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

Media Links

[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]

Other Documents

Performing a die-in Performing a die-in in the street of the accident. http://ocafe.com.br/televisao/um-repudio-a-violencia-gratuita/
[click to view]

[click to view]

Ricardo Neis is just a reflection of the traffic violence Poster attached to a bicycle. https://twitter.com/i/web/status/801393263659851776
[click to view]

It was not an accident Poster printed several times for the protest of March 2011. http://vadebike.org/2015/02/pedalada-pelada-manifestacao-ricardo-neis-atropelamento-coletivo-porto-alegre/
[click to view]

It was not an accident Protest with Posters " it was not an accident". https://noticias.uol.com.br/cotidiano/ultimas-noticias/2013/03/14/motorista-que-avancou-sobre-ciclistas-em-porto-alegre-vai-a-juri-popular.htm
[click to view]

That it dont destroy us, but make us stronger Poster of the March. http://ocafe.com.br/televisao/um-repudio-a-violencia-gratuita/
[click to view]

less violence more love Written in the streets of Porto Alegre. http://ocafe.com.br/televisao/um-repudio-a-violencia-gratuita/
[click to view]

Meta Information
ContributorSandra La Rota, Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona.
Last update20/05/2017