Unless you have been living under a rock for the past few years, you will have seen the cycle lanes scattered throughout Buenos Aires and most likely you’ve even used them to get from A to B.
If you aren’t too familiar with these wonderful lanes that line the streets, then we are here to tell you that they are not just there to make to make the roads slightly wider and your quest to get to the other side slightly more annoying – they’re actually the best thing to happen to cyclists since the invention of the gel saddle cover.
And now that the fall is officially here, moving around by bike is a little more feasible and a lot less of a sweat-fest, so we thought it was the perfect time to provide you with some top tips on making the most out of the city’s greatest way to get around.
1. DECIDE ON YOUR PEDALING MACHINE
A. Using the Ecobici System
It’s not just the bike lanes that the government has provided; they have been investing in making Buenos Aires a cycle-friendly city for nearly ten years and with that they jumped on the worldwide bike-sharing bandwagon and blessed us with the Ecobicis of which we have grown so fond.
The project to get the city to be more bike-friendly began in 2009, and since then the percentage of journeys made by bike in the city has increased seven-fold, with pedaling to your destination becoming more popular every year. According to The Seattle Times, around 1,000 cities worldwide have some sort of bike sharing system, and BA is no exception. Granted, Buenos Aires’ Ecobicis may be a little behind in terms of technology; they don’t have the automatic locking system of Barcelona’s bikes, or the built-in GPS that they have in Copenhagen, but the system is improving every year and the lack of gizmos hasn’t stopped it from being a huge success.
So how can you get your hands on one?
If you aren’t already a regular user of the free green bicycle, you may have been wondering how to get involved. Well, it’s not as difficult as you might think. Whether you are a resident or a tourist, you are welcome to use the bikes and we recommend that you download the app (available on both iOS and Android) too so you can check the real-time map and find your closest stations.
First, you need register online or through the app. Once you have your account, if you are a resident you just have to enter your DNI and upload evidence of your address and then you’re good to go. As a tourist, you will need to upload a scanned copy of your passport with a valid tourist visa. You can also register in person if you want to. Just make sure you book an appointment first, and show up with the necessary paperwork so they can register you for the bike.
On weekdays, you can take the Ecobicis for up to one hour at a time and on weekends it’s increased to two hours. If you need more time, just put the bike back into one of the 200 stations located around the city and wait five minutes until your time is renewed and you can get your cycle on again. Do this 24 hours a day, seven days a week if you so wish!
B. Renting a Bike
We totally get that you may not want to faff around with DNIs and lining up and making photocopies of passports, especially if you just want to give a day or two of cycling to see what the fuss is about. If this is the case, then why not rent a bike for the day? There are loads of places in the city where you can get everything you need to pedal through the city for a few hours.
La Bicicleta Naranja has a couple of bases from which you can rent bikes: one in Palermo and the other in San Telmo. You don’t even need to reserve – just head into the shop and they will give you everything you need for a day out! Pay as little as AR $300 for 5 hours of cycling fun, or you can even rent the bike for a whole week for AR $1,500.
If the orange bikes don’t float your boat, you can try out Biking Buenos Aires, located in San Telmo. You just fill out the online form to reserve the bike and pay US $20 for the day or US $5 per hour.
Both rental companies also offer guided bike tours around the city – so if you aren’t so confident at navigating the roads then we’d recommend this option.
Of course, there are plenty more places to rent bikes all over the city – just make sure you are well equipped with lock and helmet!
La Bicicleta Naranja
Defensa 831, San Telmo: Monday to Saturday 9 AM to 6 PM; Sundays from 10 AM to 7 PM
Nicaragua 4817, Palermo: Monday to Friday 10 AM to 7 PM; Weekends from 11 AM to 7 PM
Biking Buenos Aires
Peru 988, San Telmo: Monday to Sunday 9 AM to 6 PM
C. Owning Your Own Bike
Maybe the concept of sharing a bike with the entire city is a little daunting for you, so you are considering investing in your very own. We totally support that decision! Here are some tips to make sure you get the most out of your new wheels.
There are plenty of places you can buy a bike, be it online or in person. The best online channels for second-hand purchases are Facebook (the Marketplace or the various Buy-and-Sell pages that are available) and of course Argentina’s favorite e-commerce platform: Mercado Libre. But, of course, there are a multitude of bike shops located all over the city that sell new and used bikes too. Take your pick!
Once you have your bike (with lights, lock, bell, and helmet!), we have no doubt that you will want to make sure it remains safe. You won’t see too many bikes locked to lampposts and road signs and that’s because it can be pretty risky to trust the big bad city not to let it get stolen. We recommend keeping your bike inside where possible or taking it to one of the city’s many carparks. By law, parking areas are required to keep your bike safe for 10 percent of the price that they charge for a car. Currently that is between AR $5 and AR $8 per hour depending on which neighborhood you are in. Not a bad deal to keep your mind at rest over your beloved bici.
2. GETTING AROUND ON YOUR WHEELS
We would be surprised if you weren’t a little nervous about navigating the city on a bicycle – after all, you just have to cross the road a couple of times in Microcentro to know that Buenos Aires doesn’t have the safest roads. So, excuse us for a minute while we go into over-protective parent mode.
The best way to ensure you stay safe on your bike is to assume that usually no one can see you – stay one step ahead of the game! Wear your helmet and, for the love of God, invest in some lights if you are going to be cycling after dark. When cycling through places with a lot of pedestrians, remember that a lot of them only look one way and might not realize that the bike lanes are two-way streets – that’s your chance to ring your bell nice and loudly. Be particularly wary of buses and don’t ever think that, just because you think you have right of way, that the other road users are in agreement. If you ride your bike while paying full attention to the road and the other users, you will ace it.
That’s the safety lecture over, we promise.
3. THE BEST PLACES TO HIT UP WITH YOUR BIKE
Now that you have your bike and are equipped with all the safety gear and knowledge, you need to know the best places to go to make the most out of it.
The bike lanes connect a substantial proportion of the city, but if you plan to religiously stick to the lanes then you may end up cycling a few more kilometers than necessary. This is up to you though and you can look at the map online or through the ‘BA Cómo Llego’ app to check out your route before you start. The map also shows you where the lanes are being disrupted by road improvements (which can lead to a fair few diversions in an average journey).
If you want to stay around the city, we recommend the Ecological Reserve for a great day out. Bring a picnic and a book and use the many dedicated areas with benches and tables and look out over the Río de la Plata while you take a break from the exercise. This place is perfect for cycling, with an open-water view on one side and the view of the BA skyline on the other, you can barely work out where you are. You could choose to cycle all the way along Avenida del Libertador, which has a path the whole way and passes along many green spaces and some of the most beautiful pieces of architecture the city has to offer.
It’s really easy to head out of the city too. Take the Mitre train line to San Isidro and hit up Peru Beach, or go all the way to Tigre. Both towns have much quieter roads to cycle on than in the city, or if you are feeling really brave then you can even take the cycle path that runs next to the coastal train all the way to San Isidro. We recommend being kitted out for this though, as it’s about a 20km stretch from the city center.
There is also an abundance of cafes located around the city that will reward you just for arriving on your bike. Stop at any of these places for a rest with a coffee, or you can even make one of them your final destination. Get ready to take note now, because you will definitely want to take advantage of some of these deals when you are moving around on your wheels.
Almacen Purista, Ramírez de Velazco 701, Villa Crespo
Arrive here on your bike and receive a free coffee with your purchase.
Cusic, El Salvador 6016, Palermo
Enter the café with your bike and receive a free lemonade with whatever you buy.
Fifí Almacén, Gorriti 4812, Palermo
10 percent discount if you arrive by bike.
Ninina, Gorriti 4738, Palermo
These guys offer exclusive discounts for cyclists, including a FREE BROWNIE if you arrive by bike.
Sullivans, Borges 1702, Palermo
Arrive on your bike and receive 20 percent discount on your bill.
Tea Connection, various locations, CABA
Get free tea refills if you get here on your bike.
La Apasionada, Ayacucho 1383, Florida, Vicente López
Receive 15 percent discount on breakfast and merienda when you get here on your bike.
Crisol, J. Seguí 4585, Palermo
10 percent discount if you go by bike.