Rui Teixeira opened the train doors to look outside. One of those thoughtless acts, typical of someone who had just turned 17, but which would change his life forever: with the speed, his left leg hit a street post. His arms clung to the train but his body eventually gave way.
He lost his leg. The accident forced Rui to have a transfemoral amputation – in other words, he lost his leg.
Before that, he used to surf, skateboarded, and rode his bike.
Suddenly he felt as if his world had shrunk. He felt angry, of course. But although the accident took away his leg, Rui didn’t let it destroy his will to live: “After the accident, I was already dreaming of things that would have been impossible.
Impossible? Maybe they could seem so. But they weren’t.
With his recovery from the accident and a prosthesis that restored his ability to walk, Rui decided to do what his friends thought was crazy: riding a bicycle
This “madness” became one of his main ways of commuting.
Rui moves around the city in his yellow bicycle from the 1980s, decorated with the stickers of his favorite rock bands, which he repaired himself.
“It was my brother’s old bike, completely dismantled, without pedals, rusty”.
He gave it a new life at the Crescente Cicloficina, in Marvila, part of the Gingada project, a bicycle social worskshop. Its main purpose is to mobilize the community to ride a bike.
It is in the neighborhood where he was born and raised, in Marvila, that Rui Teixeira helps children to do the same as him. And helps them repair their bikes.
“I was never a mechanic, but I’ve always been curious and so I help them”.
Discovering the Bike
Rui started riding a bike when he was four: it was at this age that he inherited his cousin’s bike. The problem: the childish wheels that his older friends made fun of.
Little Rui asked his father to get rid of them and learned to ride on two wheels only. It was a discovery and a love forever.
As he got older, the bicycle and the passion lost momentum, giving way to the desire to drive a car.
Until the accident brought him back.
He didn’t go back to racing or skateboarding or surfing. “The bike was one of those old things I could still do.”
All he had to do was not bend his knee too much (something you also do to drive), have some patience on the climbs, and get his foot stuck on the pedal.
Biking became a habit that was met with surprise by the doctors. So much so that they even asked him to take a couple of laps around a pavilion to make sure it was possible. “They had seen other people with amputations using a bicycle, but not with transfemoral amputations.”
Life took its course: Rui would borrow his bike from friends to ride around, and it became a ritual for them to ride through Marvila towards Santa Apolónia.
The click kept happening: one day, while cycling to Avenida da Liberdade, he discovered another way of seeing Lisbon.
“I loved it, it wasn’t that tiring: I went wherever I wanted, I saw people, I heard voices you don’t hear while in a closed car”.
Meanwhile, when a friend with a birth defect started cycling to work, Rui, who was working in the Parque das Nações area, decided to buy his first bicycle. It was the beginning of a new journey, free from the hours wasted in the city traffic.
Which are the barriers in Marvila?
For many years now Rui has been cycling from one place to another and from home to work (the last as an office worker). He is receiving a pension from the state and working as a driver for Santa Casa da Misericórdia – a portuguese philantropic organization.
All these years trace the story of mobility in Lisbon, with new bike paths slowly coming to places where they didn’t exist. “Many came about late, and were built incorrectly,” he says.
Despite this, Rui recognizes that there has been an evolution, even in the way car drivers now deal with bikes.
But there are forgotten areas, like Marvila.
Even today, despite the Cicloficina and Nuno Varela’s Kriativu space, Marvila is still one of the parishes with the greatest lack of cycling infrastructure, and where Gira bicycles (the public bike sharing service in Lisbon) and electric scooters do not operate. There is however the promise of the executive to build Gira stations in Marvila by 2025.
Rui even submitted an application for a Participatory Budget of the Municipality for the construction of bike lanes in Marvila when these did not exist yet. The proposal was rejected, but the bike paths would eventually appear, although not with the ideal planning.
Even with all the obstacles, thanks to the work developed by projects like Cicloficina, Rui is proud to say that “in Marvila, only those who don’t want to ride a bike don’t”. Despite the accident at a young age, Rui says he “did everything anyway. “I had help from my friends, who always supported me in these adventures with the bicycle.
This is proof that the will to pedal overcomes all barriers – even some physical ones.
You can read this article in Portuguese.
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