Editor's choice
16 May 18

Smart and sustainable, the bike sharing boom in Latin America

Bike sharing is getting rolling in Latin America. Becoming smarter and more sustainable, the bikes provide an excellent answer to the environmental and traffic problems most cities in the region have to deal with.

Bike sharing in South America started in 2008, with Brazil and Chile as pioneering countries, followed by Argentina and Colombia. Ten years later, shared bikes have also been deployed in Colombia, Venezuela, Chili, Ecuador, Uruguay, and Mexico. As to date Peru, Bolivia and Paraguay do not have any bike sharing system implemented. 

Environmental concerns and/or traffic congestion are leading more commuters and tourists to bike sharing services, creating a dynamic and continuously growing market in the region. Moreover, in combination with public transport where bike stations are often located, the bikes provide an excellent first- and last-mile coverage.

Brazil, the biggest

The largest bike sharing system in South America is soon to be realised in Brazil, as announced by PBSC Urban Solutions, in cooperation with tembici and Itaú Unibanco. Since its start in September 2017, the cooperation has deployed bike sharing systems in six major cities of the country, including Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. The goal is to deploy 8,000 bikes and 680 stations across the country. To be part of an integrated mobility system in São Paulo, more bikes will be provided at the major public transit hubs in the near future, and it will be possible to pay with the Bilhete Unico Card.

Additionally, in the near future, yellow bikes will join the streets in São Paulo. The company Yellow will take bike sharing to a next level by providing dockless bikes, in order to increase the accessibility. Considering the regionally low credit card penetration rate, the company is even willing to work with a subscription-based payment model by which customers pay for a month of service at a time, similar to widespread streaming services like Spotify and Netflix.

Colombia

In Colombia, various cities already have a shared bicycle network deployed and the list is expanding with pilot projects throughout the country. The most innovative city of the country, Medellin, offers the most elaborated system, called Encicla Medellin. The bike sharing system in Calí, Biciestación, offers free services, compensated by sold advertising space.

With electric shared bikes, the Colombian capital Bogotá, is countering an important barrier for cycling in tropical countries: heat. Bogota will become the living lab for MUVO which aims to provide the first e-bike sharing system for Latin America. If successful, the Colombian founders want to replicate the system in other Colombian and Latin American cities. 

The others

Besides Brazil and Colombia, most countries do not have a widespread bike sharing system across the country, however most capitals do, such as Montevideo in Uruguay (Bicis Itaú), Santiago in Chile (Bikesantiago), Buenos Aires in Argentina (EcoBici), Quito in Ecuador (BiciQ), and Caracas in Venezuela. Additionally, Argentina offers bike sharing systems in Santa Fe, Rosario and Mendoza as well, as does Chili in Viña del Mar.

To cope with its status of most (air) polluted city of the region, Mexico City launched Ecobici in 2010. Since then, Ecobici replicated its programme in several South American cities, while other bike sharing companies such as Mobike or Quebici offer additional services in the city and around the country as well.

Secure, Smart and Sustainable

As the announcement of PBSC suggests, bike sharing services are booming in the region. In order to be more sustainable, some docked stations are equipped with solar panels, whereas the arrival of smart technology allows the bikes to become dockless. Moreover, offered in various cities partly for free or at affordable tariffs, the bikes become an accessible, smart and sustainable alternative for individual transport in the region.

Image: Tembici Brazil

Author: Fien Van den Steen