A Bicicle-sharing program in Mexico City
From the point of view of one of its users

What's this?

Ecobici is an individual urban transport system located in Mexico City. Along with the Metro/Underground trains, buses and electric cars, it's part of the Public Transport service network offered by the local government. In other words, it's a semi-public program that lends bicycles to its users as a low-pollution, low-cost transportation service.

If this sounds familiar to you, it may be because this program has been adopted and transformed for other cities. The most prominent example is Citibike in New York City

How does it work?

Ecobici's simplified procedure is:

  1. Take a bike from station A
  2. Ride the bike to station B
  3. Return the bike

The extended procedure is:

  1. You get to one of the Ecobici stations in the designated perimeter (currently, Ecobici's stations are available in the Roma, Condesa, Juárez, Chapultepec, Anzures, Polanco and Downtown areas). The stations are custom Bike racks with several bikes locked inside it.
  2. You put your Ecobici card in the reader (it has some kind of NFC chip)
  3. The display will show which bike number has been unlocked for your use
  4. You get to the designated bike and get it out of the lock. If you don't get it out in 60 seconds, it will automatically re-lock itself, but you can ask for another bike immediately.
  5. You have 2 minutes to check for anomalies (brakes not working, ring bell working, etc). If you want to change your bike, just put it in the lock again within these 2 minutes and request another bike at the reader
  6. If everything's OK, you may ride your bike anywhere you like
  7. When you're done, get to a station with available parking space
  8. Put the Bike in the lock and wait for the LED to turn solid red.
  9. Put your card in the reader to check if the system correctly logged your bike check-in
  10. Walk away and be happy

...and that's it?

Pretty much. There are some rules about it, though:

  • The service is available every day from 06:00 to 00:30
  • You have 45 minutes to return the bike to any station (not necessarily the one you came from). From the 46th to the 120th minute of use, you'll be charged an extra depending on how long you take. If you return the bike after 2 hours of use, you'll be issued a warning. Three warnings mean you're out.
  • You may have unlimited rides per day as long as they last under 45 minutes. The system won't give you a new bike within 5 minutes of returning the previous one, so you may ride for 45 minutes, rest for 5 and ride for another 45 minutes ad infinitum
  • If you arrive at a station with no available spaces, you may put your card on the reader and it will display the nearest station(s) with available parking spaces and will grant you 10 minutes of use so you can get to your new station.
  • The user is bound by applicable laws in transportation and public spaces.

Cool, I want in!

At the moment of writing this, the sign-up process is:

  1. Show up at an Ecobici center with an official ID and proof of residence in Mexico City proof of residence is no longer necessary (2013.10.08)
  2. Sign a contract detailing your rights and obligations with the service
  3. Pay the fee with credit or debit card (no cash allowed). The 1-year membership fee at this moment is 400 MXN (approx. 32 USD according to WolframAlpha)
  4. Receive your Ecobici card

There are also temporary cards for 1, 3 and 7 days, but these require a 5,000 MXN (~395 USD) deposit that will be reimbursed when the card expires.

Wait, I want to know more!

The official site for Ecobici can be found at I won't transcribe their entire FAQ here, but I will post some other things you might want to know:

  • Temporary cards don't require a proof of residence, only and ID and Credit/debit card. This makes Ecobici available for tourists
  • Contrary to what many people think, using a bicycle in Mexico City isn't necessarily dangerous. Yes, you're prone to accidents with pedestrians and cars, but as long as you know where to ride, what streets to avoid and don't distract yourself with your cell phone, you won't have much trouble.
  • Additionally, some of the most important streets in the city now have a separate bike lane, which further increases safety for everyone.
  • Bicycles are bound by Transit Laws. Even though it's a safe, cheap eco-friendly way of moving oneself, there are asshole bikers just as there are asshole drivers who think they're above the law. The most common infringements are:
    • People riding the wrong way (bike lanes are one-way-only)
    • People riding a bike in the sidewalk (they should dismount)
    • People riding without front/rear lights
  • There's a rewards system in Mexico city for many eco-friendly activities called TuOla. Using Ecobici nets you some points to use in TuOla (including, but not limited to, free movie tickets, free organic coffee, discounts in bookstores and such)

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