My name is Ana Carboni. Today I can say that I am first and foremost a cycling advocate. I have lived and worked in Brazil, the UK and Uruguay, returning to Niterói, my hometown, in 2014. The bicycle has been a means of transportation for me since my early teens. And after coming back to Brazil, I have actively participated in cycling promotion, as I believe in the power of the bicycle as a tool to positively transform societies and cities, especially here. Currently, I am a member of the Bike Anjo’s network and have been elected President of the Brazilian Cyclists’ Union (UCB) in 2019 for a two year mandate (2020-2021).
How would you describe your mission?
To promote the use of the bicycle in Niterói, changing the cultural mindset through participation in activities and events, continuing to communicate the social and individual benefits of cycling, educating riders on safe cycling techniques and good road sharing manners to all.
What are the obstacles and challenges you’re facing in your city?
Brazil still maintains the tradition of privileging individual transportation over other means. Even though studies have shown that most urban journeys are completed on foot (36%), followed by public transport (30%) and bicycle (4%), pedestrians, cyclists and public transportation only occupy 20% of urban space. Owning a motorized vehicle is a status symbol here and our increasing levels of motorization reflects that. Niterói has one of the highest rates of motorization in the country. Changing this scenario demands a change in mentality. I believe that with adequate infrastructure, permanent educational campaigns and public policies that improve conditions for cyclists we can make a positive change.
What are your next steps now that you are the Bicycle Mayor?
Continue to work with local government and participate in meetings and events. I will advocate for the growth, improvement and maintenance of our cycling infrastructure and also for the development and implementation of educational campaigns and a cohesive cycling strategy for the city. People should realize that cyclists save a great amount of emissions; better health and less traffic benefits the entire community and society. Even if a person does not feel compelled to cycle, they should respect the choice and understand the benefits.
What can other cities learn from your city?
Niterói is a municipality of the state of Rio de Janeiro. It lies across Guanabara Bay facing the city of Rio de Janeiro and is part of Rio de Janeiro’s metropolitan area. It has an estimated population of 511,786 inhabitants (2018), making it the fifth most populous city in the state. In recent years our local government has invested more in cycling infrastructure than before. Between 2013 and 2017 there was the implementation of important cycling lanes and a bicycle parking by the ferry station – the ferry is a key mode of transport between Rio de Janeiro and Niterói. This has had a positive impact on the number of people that use the bicycle for their daily commute, the numbers increase year by year. The implementation of the bicycle parking had the most positive impact on bicycle circulation, bringing new users, as 50% of people that use the infrastructure did not use the bicycle before. Even though the increase is a step in the right direction, the percentage of people cycling to move about it is still the minority. The 2018 Cyclist Profile survey showed that road safety and adequate infrastructure were the main problems faced by respondents and that an improvement in these areas would make them cycle more. There are a number of big urban redevelopment projects planned for the coming months and our challenge is to ensure that all work is done giving priority to pedestrians and cyclists and not individual motorized vehicles. Next year we will have municipal elections and it is important to continue to have the bicycle in the agenda of the new government.