This blog was originally posted on ICLEI South America Secretariat’s website with slight modifications.
Big cities have bigger challenges every day to face the mobility of their citizens. Whether for work, study, housing or other activities, moving from one place to another on massive scales is a great source of environmental pollution, even if we take into account the use of public transport services such as buses, subways or taxis.
Fortunately, one of the great solutions to this scenario is also a different means of transport: the bicycle, now rethought in the world as a green mobility option not only conceived for recreation or physical exercise of people but for the daily commute, and that in this context provides a wide spectrum of positive health benefits while having little adverse impact on the environment.
Increasingly, the cities of the world are betting on bicycles as a contribution and a sustainable complement to the current realities of public transport. This action is being carried out not only by generating incentives for people to use bicycles but by creating large systems within cities – parallel to public transport – to allow the greatest possible movement of these, with more and more stations, roads, parking lots, and facilities for bike users.
This is the framework in which, in July, the discussion “Electric Bicycles, sustainable and inclusive mobility alternative: experiences, challenges and opportunities” was held. The event was attended by representatives of the Metropolitan Area of the Aburrá Valley (AMVA), Mexico City, and Rio de Janeiro.
The discussion covered a range of issues in implementing electric bike-sharing systems in different cities, such as financing and business models, system planning, operations and management of vehicles as well vehicle charging and technical requirements. The representatives learned about the good practices and experiences that their peer cities have had in recent years, such as the deployment of new technologies and effective approaches to attracting more users, and sustain them during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Rio de Janeiro and Mexico City are frontrunners in e-bike sharing schemes, while in Medellín and its Metropolitan Area it has not yet been implemented. However, the importance of the electric fleet in incentivizing residents to leave their cars in favor of the bicycles is recognized, given the steep topography of Medellín.
This, of course, would help to greatly grow the system in the city in terms of reach, so electric bikes can revolutionize it in a positive way.
The AMVA, through its director Juan David Palacio, recognized the capital importance that bicycle systems “can help mobilize cities and regions to be sustainable and inclusive”, in addition to promoting a healthy lifestyle for its inhabitants.
Financing of e-bike sharing schemes is also an important discussion point: while in Rio and Mexico City the use of bicycle systems requires a paid membership, the service provided in Medellín is free. As such, the systems have been financed and sustained over time in the cities. Similarly, the representatives discussed the multi-modal integration with cycling and how it can be encouraged as the first/last mile solution on journeys when combined with public transport to increase its ridership.
In this regard, Ireri Brumón, Deputy director of Mexican Cycling Systems, highlighted that the transportation of citizens is one of the greatest challenges for Mexico City, and the commute time can be up to two hours for its residents. For this reason, the bicycle system is not only a sustainable transport alternative but also a smart solution to the city’s urban mobility challenges.
ICLEI Colombia provided this space for interested cities to share ideas and contribute to emerging solutions and critical thinking in sustainable urban mobility. Learning from this experience, further peer city exchanges convening other ambitious cities and experts on various other topics might be organized.
During the event, AMVA representatives recognized that they benefited from the insights and models of Rio and Mexico Cities and are better equipped to explore their options for greener mobility. ICLEI hopes to organize future exchanges with more partners and other cities to accelerate the transition towards more sustainable mobility.
Cover image credit: Área Metropolitana del Valle de Aburrá