Biking in Buenos Aires picks up speed
Similarly, Mayor Mauricio Macri is said to have drawn inspiration for his Mejor en Bici (“Better on Bike”) campaign, the umbrella under which the new ciclovías and bike-sharing program fall, from Barcelona’s indisputably successful Bicing program, which debuted in 2007. Mr. del Rio, who is rumoured to offer discounts for those professing the Beatles fandom, says he does substantial business with longer-term visitors to the city; he sells bikes to them to use during their time in Buenos Aires, then buys them back before the tourists depart. (Long-term visitors can also participate in Buenos Aires’ bike-sharing program; all that is needed is a valid passport and a Certificado de Domicilio, a paper local police deliver as proof of address.)
Biking in Buenos Aires still faces a few challenges. In a city where many drivers take stoplights as mere suggestions and the person with the right of way tends to be the bigger or gutsier, cycling can be a harrowing endeavour. Bike theft also is common, as there is no formal registration for private bikes. And despite mounting popularity, Kalwill thinks the biking culture has yet to transition from trendy to mainstream.
But many see biking as a necessary solution in Buenos Aires. Notorious rush hour traffic chokes the city’s flat roadways daily, and local newspaper Clarín reported the city lacks parking spaces for 500,000 cars. Andrés Fingeret, the director of the Instituto de Políticas para el Transporte y el Desarrollo, which advises the government on sustainability initiatives including Mejor en Bici as well as the Plan de Movilidad Sustentable (Plan for Sustainable Movement) of which Mejor en Bici is a part, also sees advantages for the city’s tourism reputation.
“Everyone knows about the Metro in Paris,” he said. “But they don’t go to Paris for the Metro. They go to walk along the Champs-Élysées, to be outside on the streets. Great cities are recognized for their great pedestrian infrastructure.” And Fingeret includes bike pathways as part of that pedestrian infrastructure. “You get to know a city by biking, not by Metro or even bus.”
With more cycling pathways in the works, more bike-sharing stations set to open and additional businesses offering guests or clients bikes to borrow, Buenos Aires is set to become more bike-friendly than ever.
“There are many cultural and creative initiatives going on, and I guess that is something that’s becoming characteristic of bike culture here in Buenos Aires,” Kalwill said. “I hope in the future bike culture in Buenos Aires manages to grow so big that it becomes a reference and inspiration to other cities in Latin America.”