Judge bans use of bike lane built for Olympic visitors

Reuters , Saturday 7 May 2016

Rio de Janeiro

 A judge has ruled that part of an elevated bicycle path built ahead of the Rio Olympics is too dangerous for use after a section collapsed, killing two people.

The collapse last month and this week's ban are among a long list of challenges facing the Rio Olympics, from political uncertainty to the Zika virus.

Judge Marcelo Evaristo da Silva said he was banning use of the section linking the fashionable Leblon and Sao Conrado districts "in order to avoid the risk of accidents to cyclists and pedestrians" now forced to use a busy avenue.

The seaside bike lane connects the famous tourist neighborhoods of Copacabana and Ipanema to the Olympic Village in Barra da Tijuca, some 25 kilometers (15 miles) away.

The new 4-kilometer (2.5-mile) section between Leblon and Sao Conrado, built atop a sheer cliff overlooking the ocean, was inaugurated in January.

Intended to improve transport options during the Olympics in August and remain afterward as a tourist attraction, it cost $12.6 million.

But on April 21, about 50 meters (50 yards) of the new section collapsed after powerful waves slammed into support pillars.

Only that smaller section had previously been put off limits.

But city council member Teresa Bergher filed a suit demanding that the entire 4-kilometer section be closed, since "there has been no study of the waves and another tragedy could occur," the daily O Globo reported Saturday.

Rio mayor Eduardo Paes had refused calls for the lane's outright closure, saying that in the event of high seas, the local authorities should have issued a warning that the bike lane could not be used.

"I feel totally responsible," he said, indicating that the head of Geo-Rio, a City Hall-linked agency that oversaw construction of the project, has resigned.

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