Yesterday morning, Manuela asked me where I was going. I proudly announced, “Now that I have a Mexican credit card, I’m going to get a bike pass.”
“You’re kidding right???,” was her reply. I could see that she was envisioning a car hitting me on a bike.
I decided to ignore her. No need to feed into the drama going on in her head.
“Nope. Not kidding. I have been wanting to ride one of those red bikes since they put the stand on our street. The only reason I got the credit card was so that I could get a bike pass. I’ll see you later,” was my reply.
And off I went.
Manuela was less than excited to know that I put her name down as my emergency contact in case of accident. I could see from the look on her face that she immediately missed the normalcy of her old family. Her previous señora would not be caught dead on a bike. Now, poor Manuela has a señora who not only doesn’t have a driver, but I also had big plans to ride a bike in traffic less than a month after getting hit by a car.
Ecobici is a public bike system available in Mexico City. As the city works to reduce its impact on the environment and provide its many, many citizens with alternate transportation options, the Ecobici program has emerged as a big hit. Since it’s launch three years ago, the city has won numerous awards for providing sustainable transport on flashy red and white bikes. Zones are established (like the photo above demonstrates) that let drivers know bikes are in the area, and riders know bikes are available and nearby.
When the program first launched it was only available to people with a permanent address in the city. Today, the program is so popular that it has expanded to offer one day, three day, and one week options to tourists as well. At the present, more than 63,000 people are actively enrolled in the program!
On my street, they’ve actually installed two bike racks–and they’re almost always nearly empty. Many people use the Ecobici to communte to and from the offices nearby.
Signing up for the Ecobici program was pretty easy. I went to the office with copies of my telephone bill, Mexican driver’s license and Mexican credit card. I was enrolled in a few short minutes, and my card was active in 45 minutes. I went to find a terminal to test the card to see if the card worked.
Bikers go to the terminal, swipe their card, and then take whichever bike the terminal unlocks. A number is posted on a screen to let you know which bike to take. All of the bikes are numbered, and you simply lift the bike and take off. There’s a makeshift basket in the front and lights on the back of the bike in case it’s dark.
One bummer, that I forgot: I’m short. My real bike is actually a kid’s mountain bike, and I seemed to forget this in all of my excitement. So, when I reached for my Ecobici, imagine my surprise when my feet just barely touched the pedals.
With a little elbow grease, I was able to jam the seat all the way down and stand a little on the bike. The valet guys near the bike stand where I collected my first bike were quite amused at my pushing and shoving of the bike seat in the middle of the street! After a little maneuvering, I could reach the pedals and get around fairly well, with a little adjusting here and there. I wasn’t crazy about riding around in traffic (Rome wasn’t built in a day), so I took some back streets home, and rode on the sidewalk. I fell into the bushes a few times (okay, several times), but, I felt that they made great cushions–and I had a great time.
On Saturday morning, when no one is on the road, I’m planning my first long distance adventure: I’m going to the grocery store!