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Public Bicycles in Mexico City

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 [...]

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.

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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.

Public Bicycles in Mexico City

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.

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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?

Public bicycle docking station

Mexico City public bicycle docking station map

Filed under: Bicycle Travel, Cities and Urban Development, Culture and Society, Mexico, North America

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 88 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to Forbes, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3411 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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13 comments… add one

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  • McGuire February 21, 2011, 1:27 pm

    Hey Wade,
    Nice piece. DC has implemented a bike share system that is very popular and ubiquitous in coverage. I ride my own bike in the capital so I don’t participate in this project, but thought this was a good example of something working in the US. I’m curious if DF has created bike lanes, bike boxes, etc. to compliment Ecobici. I haven’t seen any abuse of our system here, though I’ve heard arguments that these bikes contribute to gentrification and generally don’t benefit poor communities (or their residents). I don’t know if gentrification is politicized or has the same dynamics in Mexico City. Anyway, just an update from US.

    http://www.capitalbikeshare.com/

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    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com February 22, 2011, 10:47 am

      Thanks Mike for including the DC example. I knew they had one but did not know how well it worked. Thanks for letting us know.

      Your observation is astute: the bike exchange program is only in the downtown — richy — areas of Mexico City. It is my impression that anybody with 300 pesos a year can sign up, but the pick up stations are only around the more upper calss areas — but the programs seems to be extending to other sections of the city as well. Ultimately, the success of socially shared resources is dependent on culture — and the culture between rich and poor areas just about anywhere is often vastly different. I probably took a dim view of systems like this in the USA because I am from a poorish area (you too). In point, I don’t see an expansive bicycle share program working very well in Buffalo. Amongst the richies in DC, it has been proven possible, though if the outlaying slums were provisioned with public bicycles I wonder what would happen?

      About bike lanes in Mexico City: they are scarce. But the traffic in most parts of this city is not too bad, there are shoulders on most avenues, and, on the whole, it does not seem to be too bad of a place to ride a bike.

      Thanks for the comment.

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      • George Modilevsky April 16, 2011, 7:09 am

        Bike systems in Mexico City is just in diapers, meaning that we are not really competitive with places such as Amsterdam or others. This article was written primarily by an american bypasser who found it cute and fun, but the reality is that our governors in Mexico City change their minds too often and everything which seems to be cool for the city could change rapidly from one Presidential period to the other. Our reality about bike systems is new and still poor. The cuture for biking around the city is not possible and only because those who built the city , in the first place, never had a vision to think about bikers. In Canada, it is a completely different story. Us bikers suffer a lot in the city and , as a whole, it is not a city for bikers to enjoy. Patches everywhere would be the only way to force a biking system. It is true that the bikes on this article are meant for executives only. It might seem cheap in terms of the pricing but not everyone wearing a nice suit would think about riding a bike and getting to work soaking wet. Some people do it on daily basis and it looks cute but it is still not customary. I wish all governors were thinking about improving the biking systems in all cities but this is just a dream of mine. I am into six languages and I manage to do marketing on bikes in different magazines because I run my business on bike-repair and also selling bikes, so, I know about the matter. I just wish things were done with more enthusiasm for everyone and not only for some areas in which biking seems to be less defiant for bikers on wide sidewalks. The whole city should have been thought differently and this systems should have been implemented many years ago. I repeat. It is the fashion because of the thinking of Ebrard’s but shortly, another President will be in power and then, all these bikes might end up at a dump yard or at the home of one of our corrupted politicians…and for free. Who knows ? I just love bikes. Don’t you ? George Modilevsky in Facebook.

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        • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com April 16, 2011, 8:36 am

          Ok, how about just do nothing, how about not have a bike system? If it can’t be better than Amsterdam then there is just no point in doing it. Your opinion expressed here is incredibly petty. Rather than trying to help out a budding system you sit around complaining, “Oh, it is better in Canada, bu hu, Mexico City will never be as good.” As you make your living selling bicycles and doing repair it seems as if they public system is cutting into your profit, no?

          The public bicycle system in Mexico City is one of the best in the world.

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  • craig | travelvice.com February 21, 2011, 10:35 pm

    …destroy, dismantle, exchange parts from, and steal the bicycles offered up to share.
    Really? Of all the places in the world in Mexico effin’ City this actually isn’t happening???

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    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com February 22, 2011, 10:29 am

      No man, no way — NOOOO WAAAAYYYYY. These are the most civic minded people I have ever been around this side of Japan.

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  • Kris Kemp February 22, 2011, 6:25 pm

    I think I’m going to move to Mexico, soon. Have some friends staying in Oaxaca. Please e-mail me any tips. I have a reliable Honda civic and am planning to drive from Florida. I make websites and know word press and also online marketing, as well as writing, too.

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  • Reina March 3, 2011, 4:09 am

    Switzerland has a similar, well-developed network for shared cars- so u see nests of little red automobiles, instead of bikes, near train and bus stations. 1200 retrieval points
    countrywide (we’re small) Details @ bit.ly/eQh0fx I know lots of people who use them in combo with public transport .

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    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com March 3, 2011, 5:07 pm

      This is really interesting. Mexico City has one too. It is not too big, and is more for trips outside the city than for commuting.

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  • Robert Berryhill June 20, 2012, 11:24 pm

    An informative, well written article.
    Good photos, too.
    Nice job, Wade.

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    • Wade Shepard June 20, 2012, 11:39 pm

      Thanks, much appreciated.

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