The city of Buenos Aires public bike program, Mejor en Bici, or Better by Bike provides an ecological, healthy, and fast alternative to traditional public transportation.
Bright Yellow Bikes
Since late 2010 the yellow bike depots have sprouted up around town as part of the municipal initiative, which allows for free hour-long bike usage by any city resident.
The yellow stations are primarily downtown but extend north to Palermo. The stations are strategically interconnected by freshly painted bike lanes known as bicisendas. The program is designed with locals in mind, but with very little paperwork the bikes are also available to resident foreigners.
The bikes can only be borrowed for one hour at a time. The program is designed primarily to provide public transport rather than spontaneous leisure riding . Situations in which the bright yellow bikes may be helpful include: transport to work, running errands, transport from neighborhood A to neighborhood B, or to get some exercise within work hours.
Technically helmets are required and available in the bike stations as part of the program, but that rule isn’t strictly enforced.
The steps to getting with this program include (1) prepare the necessary documents, (2) check the Mejor en Bici website to locate a convenient bike station near home, and (3) head to a station during operating hours.
Interested participants need two items: a documento (ID) and proof of address.
For the documento:
• Those with a current DNI, (Argentine identification card), bring the DNI and a photocopy
• Those without a current DNI, bring a current passport and a photocopy
For proof of address:
• Those with a utility bill in their name with their local address should bring the bill or factura de servicio and a photocopy
• Those who don’t receive bills at a local address should bring a current certificado de domicilio (resident certificate) and a photocopy.
—To obtain the address certificate, one must visit the police station closest to their address during office hours. Arrange a time in which a police officer can come to the residence, and wait there during those hours to receive the certificate. The certificate costs a nominal fee.
After presenting this paperwork, the friendly Mejor en Bici station workers will enter the information into the system, have you sign a liability release form, and take a picture for the program ID. Participants are then free to use the bikes during operating hours as long as they have their Mejor en Bici ID.
Penalties for late bike returns include a one week suspension of use for the first offense, two weeks suspension for the second, and so on. If a user is tardy a fourth time, all bike privileges are revoked indefinitely.
Users beware — the station workers cannot be schmoozed into pardoning transgressions. The program’s computer system clocks the hour of use and automatically penalizes users, depending on the number of late returns it tracks.
Word on the Bike Path
While program participation is possible for foreigners, it is more fit for those living in Buenos Aires long-term and probably not worth the trouble for visitors of less than a month. It is also not designed for those who want a bike for Sunday stroll or leisurely ride lasting more than one hour.
Critics of Mayor Mauricio Macri complain that the one-hour policy is inconvenient, but the system is designed to facilitate transport within the city. Some do it to save money as public transport costs creep upward, while others claim it saves time spent on the Subte (subway) or sitting in traffic. Yet others, including the mayor, say it’s a great method of exercise and a more ecologically friendly way to travel to work.
Fernando borrows a bike 3-4 times a week from the Parque Lezama station in San Telmo. “I do it for two reasons: exercise and time. With my work hours, this is the only exercise I manage to get during the week,” he says. “While the bus takes 45 minutes, biking takes only 30.”
* Update: Tourist can now take advantage of Buenos Aires bike lending program without a certificado de domicilio. Just take your passport with one photocopy, your hotel or hostel address and a valid telephone number and head to any of the city’s bike kiosks to sign up.
• Operating Hours:
Monday-Friday, 8am -8pm
Saturdays, 10am- 3pm
• This link lets you see if bikes are available in real-time
• Price: Free for 1 hour at a time
• Penalty for late return:
-First tardy: One week suspension of use
-Second tardy: Two week suspension of use
-Third tardy: Three week suspension of use
-Fourth tardy: Program privileges revoked