Mexico City has tens of millions of residents, 4 million cars, and very few bike paths, but that hasn't stopped city officials from introducing a bike-sharing program.
A full 85 bicycle stations in four districts of the nation's capital contain a total of 1,114 bright red bikes, to be shared among the populace on an unlimited basis for about $25 per person per year. Users will get swipe cards, which unlock a bike for use at a station. A central computer tracks all users and the bikes they "rent."
The program already has 4,000 users, in just two months, and organizers hope to have 24,000 by the one-year mark. The government hopes to have more than 6,000 bicycles available for sharing in the next two years.
Advocates say that the central district of Mexico City is conducive to widespread bicycle use because of the flat terrain and the year-round good weather. The ever-present smog has been reduced in recent years, but cyclists will still have to deal with not only the high elevation but also the car-preferring public, who are driving on roads designed for four-wheeled vehicles (meaning not a whole lot of bike lanes around). A recent change in traffic laws requires drivers on city streets to yield to cyclists and pedestrians. Hundreds of police officers have taken a course in identifying road infractions committed by drivers against cyclists. Signs around the city promote the bike-sharing program, known as Ecobici.
The red aluminum bikes Mexico City is using come from France and are designed for commuters, with three speeds, cargo racks, chain guards, fenders, and lights on the front and rear of the frame.
The Mexico City initiative is one of a large handful of such programs in the Western Hemisphere (with Montreal being a successful North American example). European countries are definitely taking the lead in this area, with France sporting a program with 20,000 bikes. Also on the bike-sharing bandwagon are Barcelona, Copenhagen, London, Milan, and Stockholm.