Mexico City turns to electric bicycles to lure commuters out of cars

World Today

Mexico City has been working for years to promote cycling as a green alternative.

Now, the city hopes to coax even more commuters out of their cars and onto bikes, by putting a little power into those pedals.

CGTN’s Alasdair Baverstock has the story.

Mexico City’s bicycle sharing program, EcoBici, has more than a quarter of a million registered users.

Since it was implemented in 2010, the program has been so successful that organizers are now turning their attention to commuters who wouldn’t normally ride a bicycle.

Last month, the government-run operation rolled out an electric model, which is aimed at commuters who wouldn’t normally consider pedaling around town. They’ve placed 340 units at bike stations throughout the capital.

“It’s great,” said rider Alejandro Trejo. “I’d even say it’s better than the traditional model because it’s faster, more comfortable and safer. There are cycle lanes wherever EcoBici is, so it’s very efficient.”

Ecobici’s electric models run for 40 kilometers, at speeds of up to 15 kilometers per hour. Their batteries are fully recharged in only two hours.

The bikes are targeted at riders who make longer journeys, as well as older citizens who may find cycling a struggle. Yet not everyone is convinced.

“This city is very complicated, there’s too much traffic and it’s very hard to navigate,” said this man.

“I’m 65, and I wouldn’t want to risk falling because it would be easy to get run over,” said this woman.

Rosa Maria Gomez has worked to implement the EcoBici system since its inception in 2010. She explains why prompted the city to introduce the electric bikes.

“Two reasons,” she said. “First, that EcoBici’s coverage is extending into areas that are not as flat. Second, that we are seeing users making longer and longer journeys, so a bicycle that offers an extra push will be a great help to our users.”

Angel Reyes is a cycling activist and has worked to promote it as a mode of transport in the capital.

“The electric bicycles have generated a lot of interest from the public,” Reyes said. “In the first two days riders racked up two-thousand trips, so it shows that cycling can be a great alternative for transport in Mexico City.”

As Mexico City’s government works to promote cycling in the traffic-clogged capital, it hopes these electric bicycles will be a major draw, helping the city reach the goals it has set for pollution-free, healthful transport on these roads.