Dead Fan Walking... Brazil's Spotty Crosswalk Laws Put World Cup Tourists At Risk

Now that Cristiano Ronaldo has earned a secondit might be time for FIFA to award the first Golden Crosswalk to Brazil, where the answer to whether World Cup fans or vehicles have the right-of- way at an intersection in the Land of the Samba is as straight as a free kick by David Beckham.

Now that Cristiano Ronaldo has earned a second Balon d' Or it might be time for FIFA to award the first Golden Crosswalk to Brazil, where the answer to whether World Cup fans or vehicles have the right-of- way at an intersection in the Land of the Samba is as straight as a free kick by David Beckham.

Brazil has launched a $10 million public relations campaign promoting the nation as a safe place to visit during the coming World Cup. But the program doesn't address what's most important to fans seeking to broaden their street level experience beyond being hustled on and off buses at tourist traps by friendly security personnel.

How do fans, or anybody in Brazil for that matter, determine whether they have the right-of- way when they cross the street in a crosswalk?

This blogger has learned that the laws governing right-of-way in crosswalks and how those laws are enforced vary in Brazil from city to city.

That means the answer is "it all depends."

This blogger posed the question on background to a senior official at Brazil's Ministry of Tourism in Brasilia. That person didn't have an answer and directed me to another ministry who might be of assistance.

While riding a biodiesel-powered articulated bus the size of three passenger railway cars recently in Goiana, a 2.5 million metropolis 3 hours southwest of Brasilia, I spotted three members of the state military police. I asked them in Brazilian Portuguese whether pedestrians have the right of way over vehicles when crossing the street in crosswalks. One of them replied "which street?" A second officer said "they're all diferent."

English fans visiting Brazil face a particularly hazardous situation. In England, for example traffic laws are enforced far more rigorously than they are in Brazil. Then too, traffic in England moves in the opposite direction that it does in Brazil. English fans are accustomed by instinct to look in the opposite direction for oncoming traffic. Forgetting to look the right way could become dangerous.

For fans who plan to watch FIFA World Cup matches played in the Amazon city of Manaus, the combination of spotty right of way laws and crime create an even bigger public safety problem.

In spite of sympathetic travel writers amping up the city's fine cuisine, architectural and cultural traditions the former rubber capital of the world boasts one of Brazil's highest crime rates. England and Italy will play a crucial match at the Arena da Amazonia on June 14th.

Outside São Paulo and Rio one sees few "pedestrian has the right-of-way" signs. Scofflaw drivers and motorcyclists turn right into pedestrian crosswalks without abandon regardless of who has the right-of -way. Sometimes there are smash ups when the when a lead car stops at an intersection when the light changes to red and the vehicle behind it wants to speed up and crash the light.

Scofflaw drivers are plentiful in Cuiaba, the capital of Mato Grosso in Brazil's sprawling interior, and Fortaleza, Recife and Salvador (Bahia) on the coast where FIFA World Cup games are being played.

In these cities football fans should be on the lookout for crosswalks with signals featuring green "walk" and red "don't walk" icons. Ninja motorcycles seeking to get through the intersection often crash this type of intersection high speeds as pedestrians scramble out of the way, as if it was a game of chicken.

FIFA Brazil World Cup tour promoters have not spoken out on the right-of-way issue. Nor have the local and international fans who can afford to attend what is becoming a very pricey tournament.

On January 12th, the regional Globo TV network in Goias state, a huge agricultural breadbasket in Central Brazil near Brasilia with a population of 10 million that's roughly the size of Germany aired two segments discussing the threat scofflaw drivers present to pedestrians.

One segment interviewed an irate school mom who compained that motorists don't respect the pedestrians in crosswalks when she walks her children to school. A second segment interviewed a bicyclist who said that drivers do not respect the special bicycle lanes set up in and around the city of Goiania.

Now that president Dilma Rousseff and defense minister Celso Amorim have agreed to have the armed forces play a greater role in security arrangements for the FIFA 2014 Brazil World Cup it might be time for the federal government to urge cities to address the pedestrian right-of-way issue. It's a move that will help football tourists have a better and safer experience in Brazil.


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