Mexico City: EcoBici changes cycling image for the better

Investment in public bicycle rental system and infrastructure pays off

MEXICO CITY, Mexico – In Mexico City there is a time before and after EcoBici, the public bicycle rental system. Before EcoBici, car drivers would laugh, mock and cut off any cyclists on the road. EcoBici ([url=][/url]) led to a complete change of mind. It didn’t completely solve the crazy stop-and-go car traffic that already evolved into a 24-hours nightmare. But according to the city government it makes, in combination with the public transportation system, the car traffic and emission much more bearable.

When EcoBici, managed by the Mexican ministry of environment, started in February 2010, there were a total of 85 bike stations installed close to downtown Metro stations. The general idea is that EcoBici complements the city’s public transportation system. At the moment, there are 6,000 rental bikes available at 452 bike stations within an area of 32 square kilometer in Mexico City. With 20.2 million people, it is one of the world’s largest metropolitan regions.

A major reason for EcoBici’s success is the city government’s investment in bicycle infrastructure. From 2010 to the end of September 2016, Mexican citizens have made a total of 36 million rentals. EcoBici officials tell Bicle: “On average, we have between eight to ten million rentals per year and a distance covered of 8 kilometers per rental.”

The local mobility chain

Obviously, the city government’s investment wasn’t made without a plan. They realized that the horrifying car traffic and emission problems could only be solved by an affordable and competitive zero-emission public transportation system. “For better air and life quality, it was necessary to offer citizens transportation for the last kilometers from the metro station to their apartment or office. “There is no doubt that this final distance can be done by bicycle. But there has to be an infrastructure that doesn’t make each bike ride a question of survival”, states Mario Armando Pereza Viveros in his role as general manager of Mexican Tern importer Mapebike.

Unique design prevents thievery

The design of the EcoBici rental bikes comes from US rental bike supplier Clear Channel Outdoor (CCO). Amongst others, it is providing several Spanish cities, like Barcelona, their rental bike design. According to Magistroni project manager Licurgo Mejía Alessi  the unique bike design with a 20-inch front- and a 24-inch back wheel also ensures fewer thieveries: “For thieves it makes no sense to offer these bikes on the black market.” Mexican bicycle producer Magistroni is assembling the EcoBici bikes, including repair and maintenance work. Astonishing is the fact that vandalism doesn’t seem to be a problem in the urban jungle of Mexico City, which normally seriously suffers from security problems.

Service mantra pays off

The key for the smoothly running bike rental system is service. It’s obvious that the city government is doing a lot to make their mobility system a success. They want to be a forerunner of a new and complete public transportation chain. While strolling around downtown Mexico City you will definitely see trucks loading or unloading EcoBici bikes. Bikes are constantly transported back to Magistroni for a checkup, to be delivered back to one of the countless bike stations after reparation.

According to Mario Armando Pereza Viveros, Founder and GM of Mexican bicycle product distributor Mapebike, EcoBici brought Mexico City citizens back to bicycles: “I even believe that many became so enthusiastic that sooner or later they will buy their own bicycle. The infrastructure is there. You can’t even compare the new generation bike paths with the previous ones. The new ones, I call them third generation bicycle paths, are separated from the car traffic and much safer than the old ones.”

To proof how save a bike ride can be in Mexico City, the Tern importer took Bicle for a ride. And indeed, cycling in this urban jungle isn’t a survival of the fittest anymore.

EcoBici: a role model

The success of EcoBici also made other Mexican cities keen on bike rental systems. In 2014, a public bike rental system called MiBici started in the country’s second largest city Guadalajara. This isn’t relying on US rental bike supplier COO like EcoBici, but on Canadian rental bike supplier Bixi.

At the time of writing there is a total of 2,230 rental bikes at 236 bike stations out there. Most of them are based downtown or close to a public transportation station. Therefore, the citizens of Guadalajara are following the example of Mexico City. They also ride the final kilometers of their trips on a public rental bike. With an eye on the environment, this is also helping this city to solve the problems caused by automotive emissions.

By: Jo Beckendorff 

Picture credits: Jo Beckendorff