The decades-long development of a car culture in Mexico City has resulted in the presence of more than 5 million automobiles on the city’s streets. Mexico City’s public bike sharing program, ECOBICI stands out as one of the few systems in the world that is integrated with the city’s overall public transit network. One card allows users to access the metro, buses, trains, and bicycles – making pedal-powered transport a viable commuting method. This integration is vital to the system’s success, as data from a 2014 User Perception Survey show that 87% of trips are made in combination with other modes of transportation.
To overcome anti-bike-sharing barriers, the city first decided to change the image of the bicycle by branding the scheme as “the intelligent way to travel”: it’s healthy, helps the planet, and reduces travel time. This helped engender a new idea of cyclists: middle class, educated, and cycling out of choice rather than economic necessity. The bicycle has thus gained visibility, social acceptance, and legitimacy.
Second, the city decided to address aggressive driver behaviour through a campaign to educate drivers on the benefits of bicycles. Messages included, for instance, “One cyclist is one less car on the road for you to arrive to work faster” and “One cyclist is one more parking spot open to you.”
Another distinguishing feature of ECOBICI is the use of yearly perception surveys with questions on user profile, travel characteristics, transport habits, and the impact of Ecobici on the user’s life.
ECOBICI has seen a massive uptake in popularity, with the number of daily trips increasing from 3,053 in 2010 to 33,700 in 2015. This is thanks, in part, to the ECOBICI’s size: the system boasts 6,025 bikes at 444 docking stations across 42 neighborhoods of the city. Similarly, the integrated card has made the shift to bicycle use easier for residents, and it has allowed the system to overcome one of the biggest challenges in transportation: changing commuting habits. Six of 10 system users did not previously use a bicycle as a mode of transport before ECOBICI was launched, and 14.5% of users shifted from driving to biking.