February 26, 2010

Mexico City Launches Latin America’s Largest Public Bike-Sharing Program

by Ana Peñalosa

After a year of planning, Mexico City launched its first public bike system, called Ecobici, on February 16. The system, which features 1,114 bikes and 85 stations, is part of the new Bicycle Mobility Strategy of Mexico City, which seeks to raise the number of cyclists in the city from one percent to five percent by 2012.

In his speech at the launch of the new system, Mexico Mayor Marcelo Ebrard highlighted the how the system can benefit the city inhabitants, presenting it as the cheapest public and individual means of transport. Considering that Ecobici’s annual subscription fee is just US $23, and the bike can be used daily for 30 minutes free of charge at any time, the annual cost of Ecobici is less than US $0.01 per trip. Any other means of public transport is at least three times as expensive per year. And one liter of gas is up to 7 times as expensive without including the cost of parking the vehicle.

Secretary of Environment Martha Delgado publicly acknowledged the work and support of the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy and other social organizations on this initiative at a press conference. Secretary Delgado announced that the launch of this program goes along with the publication of reforms to the Traffic Regulation, which gives more rights to cyclists and pedestrians. There has also been changed the right of road use, in order to give priority to cyclists and pedestrians over all the vehicles. Along with this, more severe punishments and fines will be applied to the vehicles which violate the traffic regulations. The Ecobici initiative will be followed by others dedicated to the reclamation of public space for pedestrian use and the integration of Ecobici with the public transport infrastructure.

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