Public Bicycles in Mexico City
MEXICO CITY, Mexico- Rows of funny looking red bicycles are assembled together on racks spread throughout the downtown parts of Mexico City. I initially thought it interesting that so many people in this city had the same goofy bicycle — maybe they were on sale? — until a friend enlightened me as to what they were:
These bikes are another part of the public transportation infrastructure of Mexico city, called EcoBici. So not only do the residents of this metropolis have the choice to get around using the underground metro, the above ground metro bus, standard buses, or taxis, but they also have the option to engage in a bicycle sharing program where they pay a yearly fee for the right to ride little red bikes from location to location around the city.
The bicycle exchange system works as follows: you pay 300 pesos — $25 — per year for unlimited usage of over a thousand identical red little bicycles. But, as my friend pointed out, these bicycles are another form of public transportation — not a joy ride system. Each rider has 30 minutes to transport themselves on one of these bicycles from one docking station to another — if you go over this time you are fined 10 or so pesos. There are over 85 docking stations which located in enough places around the city that, under ordinary circumstances, it is not a challenge to return the bikes within the specified amount of time. In this way, the bicycles are used like any other form of public transport: you hop on at one location and disembark at another.
For $25 a year the right to avoid crowded rush hour public transport and use bicycles to get around this city is truly clutch. This program has been going for a year now, and tens of thousands of people use it.
The measuring stick of an advanced society could be said to be the ability for strangers to share objects, tools, and equipment in kind without queering it all up and ruining it for everybody. In Mexico City, such public sharing has been proved possible, and is no better represented than by the shared bicycle system that has grown to cover much of the central parts of this metropolis.
I must wonder what would happen if this was done on such a large scale in the big cities of my own country — the USA. I am afraid to say that it is my opinion that we would quickly destroy, dismantle, exchange parts from, and steal the bicycles offered up to share. I have know groups and organizations who have tried systems like this in the USA, and have never known it to get beyond a scant subcultural fringe — with a few people doing a lot of work and the rest benefiting from it. Truly, I do not believe that civic mindedness takes up a big chunk of the USA character and I do not see such bicycle sharing programs working well on a mass level, as it is in Mexico City. What do you think?