Rio Buses: Accidents waiting to happen

As someone who uses Rio buses every day, this is a rant that has been building up for a while. I started writing this last night and finished it off this morning. 

Back in November last year I found myself waiting for the bus after work. It had been a long day in the office and by the time I got to the bus stop it was already dark. At that time of night, with steady traffic, my journey home would take around 2 hours.

I waited and waited, watching eagle-eyed for my bus. It is important to stay alert when waiting for buses in Rio. If you don’t pay attention, a bus can easily fly past – they won’t stop if you don’t stick your arm out and at the crazy speeds they travel you can blink and miss one. On top of this, some buses just don’t stop – this is incredibly frustrating, especially when you’ve waited a long time and you’re at the start of a long slog home.

On this particular occasion I had waited about 25 minutes when my bus finally came into view. The guy in front stuck his arm out at the same time as me and we both frantically waved, willing the bus to slow. At the last possible moment the driver slammed on the breaks and pulled to a halt about 3 bus lengths past the stop. We both turned and ran along the dark road to get to the open doors of the bus.

The other guy had run on in front of me and jumped up into the bus first, but as I was jumping in through the open doors behind him, I realised that the bus driver, oblivious to my presence, had already started to pull away, accelerating hard. I was half in the bus with my left hand on the bright yellow hand rail but the other half of my body was still outside the bus. The acceleration of the bus slammed me into the side of the doors that were still open. As the bus picked up speed I clung on desperately with my left hand and tried to swing the rest of my body in while the bus continued to accelerate. It was touch and go for a moment and I came very close to falling out on to the road and possibly under the wheels of the bus.

After a few of seconds I managed to grab onto the hand rail with my right hand and pull myself in. I was in a dazed state of shock as I stumbled up the stairs, past the surprised driver. I paid the attendant and pushed my way through the turnstile. As I sat down I realised that I had just come very close to having a very serious accident. The bus driver was shouting something back at me and although I couldn’t make out the words, I got the impression from his defensive tone that he was telling me it was my fault. It was only after I had sat down that he pulled the lever to close the doors.


Fast forward to tonight, 2nd April 2013, and I’m waiting at my bus stop again. A few hours ago I heard the news that a bus had fallen off an overpass in Rio’s Zona Norte, killing at least 7 people and injuring who knows how many more. The full details aren’t in yet, but it sounds like this accident was caused by an argument/fight between a passenger and the driver, possibly because the bus was going so fast that it had missed the passenger’s stop. Reports from the survivors say the bus was travelling at high speed and several passengers actually got off the bus before the crash because they were afraid of the situation.


The Rio bus crash of 2nd April 2013. Vanderlei Almeida / AFP – Getty Images

Read more

Eat London!

Things have been fairly busy since I arrived back in London 10 days ago. Mostly my time has been taken up with my new job (which is going really well!) and catching up with friends (which has been great fun but exhausting).

What I thought I’d do over the next week or so is show you some snapshots from my London adventures so far.


The London Transport System

More on this guy a little later...


Read more

Sleepy Consolation

I’ve never been good at getting a good night’s sleep. It’s a cliché I know, but it really does apply to me: when I have to get up for work it’s a real struggle and then on weekends I seem to be unable to sleep past 7.30am… Well yesterday my body-clock decided to mix things up a bit.

I had a weird dream that my Dad and I were having a meal here in Brazil, but the chef was slightly posh and English (as is my Dad). The chef came over to ask how the food was and my Dad proceeded to detail all the ways in which it was sub-standard (this is quite realistic). An excruciatingly awkward silence descended on the restaurant after my father had delivered his verdict and at this point the social anxiety got to much for me  and I woke up with palpitations (you can tell I’m English right?).

Not exactly a life-changing trauma, but as I recovered I realised that I was now fully awake and it didn’t feel like I would get back to sleep. A glance at the clock told me it was just after 6am – a glance out of the window suggested it might be worth grabbing the camera!

How am I meant to go back to bed with this outside my window? In the centre of the frame you should just be able to make out an aeroplane on its approach to Santos Dumont Airport. (Herb fans will notice that the Oregano in the window-box is doing rather well)


I decided that now I was up I’d make some coffee, grab my camera and take a few snaps. I also put some laundry in the washing machine and felt the smug glow of someone who knows they have achieved several things before 7am – this was a novel experience for me…

Read more

Boris Bikes in Rio

People often say that when you return home after you’ve been away for a long time, you are surprised by how little has changed. When I returned to London for a short break earlier in the year (having been away for 2 years) I found this to be largely true. However, one thing that did pique my curiosity were these black and blue bikes that were everywhere. Since I had been away, London’s self-styled ‘Buffoon Mayor‘, Boris Johnson, had introduced a bike sharing scheme and these bikes had become known as Boris Bikes.

Well I recently discovered that Rio now has it’s own Boris Bikes!

Bike Rio Samba

There are 600 of these bikes and around 60 docking stations (mainly in Zona Sul). I'm not sure how much Rio's mayor, Eduardo Paes, had to do with this scheme, but if I were him I'd be pushing the nickname 'Paes Bikes'...

Read more

The Metro Barata Rush

The Rio metro


Today will be the last in a trio of posts about public transport in Rio. In the Beginner’s guide to taking the Rio Metro, I mentioned that there can be a bit of a scramble to get a seat during rush-hour – the Barata Rush. Well today I thought I’d show you the footage as it makes me chuckle.


Kind of sweet at the end – the couple who missed out have a little hug to console each other.


“Barata” means cockroach in Portuguese, but I’m not calling these people cockroaches! The first time I saw this, I heard a couple of guys laughing at the way that people ran into the empty carriage to get a seat. One said “They move like cockroaches in the kitchen when you turn on the light”. Kind of stuck in my head. If anything, as a bus user, I see myself as one rung down on the public transport ladder…

The only time and place I’ve ever see this is at Botafogo during rush hour – that’s because it’s the beginning of one of the metro lines, so the train is empty and many of the people are at the beginning of a long journey. Therefore the difference between getting that seat or not is whether you stand or sit for an hour.
Read more

Look what just rolled into Rio

One of my first ever posts was related to the buses of Rio. Back then I used to churn out a post a week and each one was a lot longer than the ones I write now. That particular post contains illustrated advice on how to hail a bus, an assortment of anecdotes and even a film recommendation (you lucky people!). 


Taken from one of my first ever posts, this illustration (done by my own fair hand) demonstrates how to catch that tricky bus in the outside lane…

Little did I know it at the time, but I would go on to become something of a bus nerd. I guess it is the same everywhere, when you use a transport system every day then you take an interest (I remember having in-depth discussions back in London over what was the best underground route for getting from Baker St to South Kensington during rush hour).

So I admit it, I’m kind of into the buses here in Rio. And something cool is roving the streets right now. Something hi-tech, something luxurious, something (dare I say it?) space-age in appearance.

Read more

How to use the Rio Metro (Beginners Guide)

A few weeks ago my wife and I were accosted as we entered our local metro station in Glória. But before you start thinking this is going to be another tale of Rio’s notorious violence, I should make it clear that the only law enforcement team we needed were the Manners Police

A middle aged South African guy came up to us and frantically shouted “Finally! Someone who speaks English”. He went on to demand that we tell him how to get to Ipanema, going on to mention that he and his wife (who had wordlessly appeared at his side) were completely lost and no one could explain anything to him. We were happy to help, but were both quite taken aback by his slightly rude, aggressive stance through all this. Like what had taken us so long to get there to help him?

Metro Rio – nothing here to be scared of (but don’t expect the staff to speak English).

Not that I particularly want to help him again, but I thought it might be nice to put together some simple guidelines for someone coming to Rio who wanted to save some cash on taxis. 

Read more