It’s All about the Bike: A Dispatch from Brazil

Sao Paulo, Brazil is a recent addition to Mountainfilm on Tour. Under Tour Director Henry Lystad, the world tour’s calendar and reach is expanding. He recently sent Mountainfilm in Telluride festival director David Holbrooke to Brazil for the second year of Mountainfilm in Sao Paulo. Here’s Holbrooke’s dispatch:

I seem to have tapped into a nascent, but blossoming, bike culture in Brazil. Last year in Sao Paulo, I was accompanied by Jacob Seigel-Boettner, director of the lovely bike film With My Own Two Wheels, who had found a group of rad urban riders that tried to create bicycle lanes by stenciling bike symbols in the middle of major avenues. This year, progress is marked by actual bike lanes, but unfortunately, they are only available on Sundays and holidays — but it’s a start.

The festival here — called the Rocky Spirit festival — is ambitious and produced with our partners at Go Outside (the Brazilian version of Outside magazine). Aside from three nights of outdoor screenings in the Sao Paulo version of Central Park — or Telluride Town Park — they organized a bike ride with a vehicular escort on Saturday through the city to the festival.

After a sometimes-perilous ride, we arrived at the outdoor theater to see hundreds of people ready for a night of Mountainfilm selections. (Over the weekend more than 2,000 people attended.) People came prepared for the evening, many with blankets and sleeping bags for the outdoor screenings.

The bike culture in Brazil is blossoming so much that there are now a few mountain biking trails right outside of Sao Paulo. Andrea Estevan, the editor of Go Outside, took me on a terrific ride that was a mix of single track and fire roads. My mediocre iPhone photo doesn’t capture how steep that incline is, but Andrea can ride.

The photo that captures the spirit of the Sao Paulo best is perhaps the “bike power fist,” which is from an unpermitted occupation by the same riders who stencil the bike lanes last year. Ignoring the concept of a permit process, they took over a big median on Paulista Avenue, which is the main drag of this massive city, and turned it into an urban beach. There were sunbathers, fiddlers and a graffiti statement by riders in this city who aren’t satisfied with a bike lane that is open only once a week.

Photo Credits: 

David Holbrooke

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