We rented bikes today and went biking through Rio. I saw bike paths
(“ciclovia”) along the beach in Ipanema and Copacabana earlier but
didn’t realize that the trail continued from Copacabana/Leme into the
city, for about another 8 km (pretty much all the way to downtown),
making the total path about 15km.
(The yellow line shows our path today, the green - other bike
paths that I know exist. Image from Google Maps.)
After biking along the ocean beach in Copacabana we turned towards
downtown on Rua Princessa Isabel, which has a bike path running along
the divider. There were a few lights to cross, but they seemed to be
timed in bikers' favor. (Of course, in Rio what matters is not
whether you have the green light but whether the cars actually
stopped.) The bike path then continues through the tunnel and then
again along the divider. At one point there are four streets that
need to be crossed in close succession, but other than that you go
uninterrupted. Then the path runs along the coast of Guanabara Bay
with no further intersections for about 6 km, with great views of Pão
de Açúcar, Corcovado, Niteroi, etc.
All along it's a well-marked bike path and the pedestrians generally
stay away from it. You do get to share the path with the joggers, but
there weren't many. Praia do Flamengo was over-flowing with people on
Sunday, so we had to maneuver around them a bit, but a section of
Aterro (an expressway running along the beach) is reserved for
pedestrian and human-powered traffic on Sundays, so on the way back we
went through Aterro. (On the way there the sun was still high and the
fact that the bike path was mostly in the shadow made it more
attractive, plus you get a better view.) Finally, there are a few
make-shift bike repair stations on the way and no shortage of people
The bike path ended at the Santos-Dumont Airport - a small airport
near downtown. As we were approaching the airport I thought the path
would dead-end right before it. To our surprise, however, they
actually let us pass through along the road that separates the runway
from the bay. (There is a guy sitting there making sure you don't try
to cross when a plane is about to land or take off. They also have a
sign warning you to look for landing planes.) However, on the other
way side of the runway the road quickly dead-ended into a fenced navy
academy. We tried asking whether there was a way of getting around
it, but the guard wasn't much into talking.
The whole trip (probably about 20km) took just a bit over two hours.
It could probably be done in less time if we were in better shape and
on better bikes.