The road network of São Paulo is notorious for traffic congestion. According to Rede Nossa São Paulo, some motorists spend a month per year sitting in traffic. In 2012, the World Bank found that traffic jams caused by the 8.5million cars in São Paulo made it the 6th most congested city on earth and cost the Brazilian economy $17.8 billion; 1% of national GDP in 2012. Another study by Agência Brasil found that at city level the average daily length of traffic jams in 2013 was 300km, costing the metropolitan economy just under 8% of it’s GDP. In 2011, São Paulo University Faculty of Medicine found that poor air quality caused more deaths (4,655) amongst Paulistanos than traffic accidents (1556), AIDS (874) and breast cancer (1,277) combined.
Those are the statistics, but it’s important to remember the impact this must be having on the lives of São Paulo’s 20 million residents, not to mention the difficulties caused to organisations trying to function in the city. It is against this backdrop that insurance company Porto Seguro has introduced a new way of providing breakdown assistance to stranded motorists in the city; e-bike.
Yes, you read that right; it’s strange but true – bikes are now being deployed to help keep cars on the road. Porto Seguro offers two services to their customers: Bike Socorro – call outs to roadside breakdowns, and Bike Vistoria – call outs to customers’ homes.
Porto Seguro have a fleet of 50 bikes in São Paulo, from which simple repairs such as tyre replacements, are carried out. The pedal-powered mechanics are even able to recharge car batteries using the e-bike’s battery.
Reasons for the switch to e-bikes cited by Porto Seguro include an aim to reduce response times by 25% as well as reductions in the costs associated with running motorised vehicles, such as maintenance and fuel. Another goal is to reduce emissions as part of the organisation’s Corporate Social Responsibility plan; the organisation claims that their Bike Vistoria service avoids 218 kg of CO2 / month.
In a city where traffic congestion is taking such a toll, hopefully the irony will not be lost on the stranded motorists being helped by the pedal-powered mechanics. Meanwhile, Porto Seguro hopes to roll out their e-bike services to more areas of the country in the near future.
Innovations: bikes fixing cars, emissions reduction
Organisation: Porto Seguros
City: São Paulo
Rede Nossa São Paulo: “Dia Mundial Sem Carro” (Portugese)
World Bank: “Changing Commuters’ Choices Helps São Paulo Reduce Traffic Congestion”
Agência Brasil: “Custo de congestionamentos no Rio e em São Paulo atinge R$ 98 bilhões” (Portugese)
Globo: “Estudo aponta que poluição mata mais que o trânsito em São Paulo” (Portugese)
Mundo Eco: “Bicicleta elétrica” (Portugese)