March in Buenos Aires marks the roll out of the city’s newest bike share program. Building off a small, manual system from 2010, the new Ecobici features an expanded coverage area, 24-hour service, and 200 new automated stations. Ecobici users are expected to take nearly 36,000 daily trips and over a million trips a year. The system gives Porteños new options for transit, and complements Buenos Aires’ significant investment in bike lanes over the past several years. Along with new pedestrian projects, rapidly improving biking amenities, and increased public transit, Ecobici is a cornerstone of Buenos Aires’ vision for a future of strong sustainable transit.
When Ecobici first opened in 2010, it offered just three stations and 72 bicycles, all operated out of manual stations (see side bar). Since then, the system has slowly grown to 32 stations with 850 bikes. Now, the system is in for its biggest expansion yet, along with a significant technology upgrade. With 200 new fully automated stations and 3,000 bikes, the system has become large enough to play an important role in the city’s transit. In addition to being more efficient and easier to use, automated stations mean the system is now open 24-hours a day, instead of only during business hours.
In a manual system (pictured above), an attendant records the user’s information and helps with checking in or out the bike, including payment. This information can be recorded on paper or electronically. Automated systems are where the user checks in or out the bikes and makes payments electronically either at the terminal or kiosk or directly at the docking station. These types of systems often use specialized key cards for the users.
– The Bike Share Planning Guide
Throughout the process, ITDP Argentina has supported the growth of the Buenos Aires bike share. After initial guidance based on sharing international best practices, ITDP continued to assist with system design and advised on the tender and other technical documents. Through this work, EcoBici has evolved to meet international best practices with a large, automated system covering significant parts of the city’s busiest districts.
The growth of Ecobici has been complemented by significant investment in biking infrastructure in the city. Since 2010, city officials, including Secretary of Transportation Guillermo Dietrich, have added 135 km of protected bike lanes criss-crossing the city. Accompanying the new lanes have been a series of policies encouraging the installation of bike racks, bike education programs, and credits for purchases bicycles. Previously used almost exclusively for recreation, biking now represents 3.5% of all trips in the city.
A bigger, fully modern bike share in Buenos Aires will bring many benefits. From enhancing social interaction to improving health and the quality of life, Ecobici will lead to a better urban environment for Buenos Aires residents. The project is the latest example of Buenos Aires’ commitment to sustainable transit. Last year the city won the 2014 Sustainable Transport Award for launching two new lines of BRT and implementing major pedestrian safety projects at intersections, as well as removing cars from large parts of the microcentro. With Ecobici, Buenos Aires continues improving, making the city ever more, safe, sustainable and livable.