cycling in rio

Go for a ride around the beautiful Rodrigo de Freitas lagoon (Lagoa) Photo: Rodrigo Soldon

One of Rio’s main selling points is its natural beauty so eco-friendly bikes seem like the most appropriate way to travel around. With the price of cars nearly double that of Europe or the US and with the sometimes unreliable buses and metro, a bike is frequently the quickest and cheapest way to get around. It also gives you flexibility to explore a particular area of the city in your own time. Cycling in Rio is a highly recommended experience!

Cycle lanes

There is a decent network of bike lanes connecting the various neighbourhoods. The Mayor’s office has been keen to highlight Rio’s green credentials before the World Cup and the Olympics so new cycle lanes have been sprouting up all over the place. They are all pretty well connected and are strategically placed to enjoy some of the most famous locations and spectacular scenery.

The most popular cycle lanes are those that hug the coasts, where you can feel the sea breeze on one side and the beat of the city on the other. On Sundays and public holidays parts of the coastal roads are closed so that there is more room to cycle, skate or walk.

Cyclist map

Here is a great interactive map that not only shows you all the cycle paths but also bike shops, public bike stations, bike racks and more.

Itaú bikes

If any of you have spent time in London or Paris then you will be familiar with the systems of public bikes in those cities, the ‘Boris’ bike and the Velib. Rio has its own system called Bike Rio. It’s easy to spot the bikes they use as they are all painted orange, the colour of Itaú Bank which sponsors them.

To use the bikes you will need to either register on the site or use your phone to unlock the bikes depending on which of the two options available you choose. You can either buy a 30-day pass for R$10 or a 24 hour pass for R$5. This is a good option for people living in Rio but may not be such an easy option for visitors without a Brazilian mobile phone. A better option would be to rent a bike (see below).

Full instructions including how to register and relevant phone numbers are included on the official site which is in both Portuguese and English.

Official site

Bike rentals

There are a plethora of bike rental places. Some are bike shops, others are rentals by the side of the cycle lanes. The quality of the bikes can vary so make sure that you choose a bike that works well, has decent tyres and brakes that work.

Aterro do Flamengo has various roadside rental places, with prices ranging from R$15 – R$30 per hour, and in Copacabana there are a few stores on Rua Francisco Otaviano where you can rent bikes.

Velô e-Bike Store

Rua Francisco Otaviano, 20, loja C – Copacabana
R$10 per hour / R$60 per day / R$80 overnight (24 hours)
Opening hours: Weekdays 9am – 7pm; Saturdays 9am – 4pm; Sundays 10am – 4pm

Ciclovia Zona Sul

Rua Francisco Otaviano, 55/A – Copacabana
R$15 for first hour, R$5 for each additional hour. R$70 for 24 hours.
You will need to leave either your passport or driving licence.

Integration with other forms of Public Transport

Bicycles are generally not allowed on buses or the metro however, there are bicycle depots at the following metro stations:

Ipanema/Gen. Osório (closed until Jan 2014)
Cantagalo (10 spaces)
Catete (5 spaces)
São Francisco Xavier (5 spaces)
Estácio (10 spaces)
Triagem (10 spaces)
Inhaúma (10 spaces)
Vicente de Carvalho (10 spaces)
Irajá (16 spaces)
Colégio (20 spaces)
Pavuna (100 spaces)

Bicycles Cantagalo

Bike rack in Cantagalo metro station.

These depots are open 5am – midnight Mondays to Saturdays and 7am – 11pm Sundays and public holidays. They are monitored by CCTV cameras.

Exceptions to this rule is on the weekends and public holidays. Bikes are allowed on the metro but must be transported in the final carriage of each train. Bikes are not allowed on any of the metro bus extensions.

Tips for cycling in Rio

  1. If there is no cycle lane then use the pavements. This is normal in Rio and you will not get disapproving stares from the pedestrians. Also, once you see how many crazy bus drivers there are in this city you will definitely not want to share the road with them.
  2. Beware cycling through tunnels. Thieves take advantage of the enclosed environment to corner you to steal your bike and belongings.
  3. Any place where it is physically possible to lock your bike, you can lock your bike. This only relates to public infrastructure such as lamposts, benches and trees. I wouldn’t recommend locking your chopper to the gates of Eike Batista’s private residence.