In a city not known for changing too quickly, or doing anything quickly for that matter, something is hitting the streets of Buenos Aires fast. Every day more and more Argentines, young and old alike, are foregoing the crammed colectivos (buses) and the sweaty subtes (subway) for the freedom and convenience of two wheels. As an avid biker myself, I’ve been able to watch the transformation of Buenos Aires’ bicycle culture over the past 2 years. Once an almost underground “scene”, bikes are now rampant on the streets of BA with packed rush hour bike lanes, city bike tours, bike shops springing up left and right, and La Masa Critica a twice-a-month (a day-time ride and a night-time ride) mass gathering of cyclists in the city.
While the hill-less streets, mild climate, and Argentine eye-candy may make biking quite an appealing option, there are a few things you should know before hopping on the saddle. As an Argentine friend of mine put it to me when I first started out on la bici, “Siempre andas como si todos fueran a chocarte.” (“Ride like everybody is about to hit you.”) After a close call or two, I bought myself a helmet and always heed this advice. There’s no doubt bikes are becoming a staple on the streets of Buenos Aires but still many motorists and pedestrians don’t seem ready to share the streets with their new counterparts: mindless pedestrians cross bike lanes without even the slightest glance and your everfriendly taxi driver will just as soon run over you rather than brake or, heaven forbid, use their turn signal. These are just a few of the dangers you’ll encounter on your way. So, as my wise friend told me, take it easy and safe, you’ll probably beat the colectivo (bus) anyway!
As the city adds more and more bicicendas (bike lanes), there are a couple tools that exist to help you navigate the city and get you started with your vida de la bici! Buenos Aires’ official website now has a section exclusively for their project “ecobici”. Argentines and foreigners now have the option to rent a bike (free, just bring a copy of your passport) that can be used for an hour and then returned to one of their numerous stations around the city. The site also shows you the current network of bike lanes and many of the bike shops and places that offer discounts for bikers throughout the city. Another similar page is La Vida en Bici. Basically providing the same information but also gives you recommended streets and streets to avoid when you’re not blessed with a bike lane. Smart phone users also have a couple more resources to navigate the city. Buenos Aires’ Ecobici has an app that will show you the bike lanes and also has a “find the closest bike lane to me” option. Also, the Como Llego app from mapa.buenosaires.gov.ar that so many of us love and depend on now includes an option for cyclists.
Biking has given me a new view of the city and a unique experience I would never have gotten otherwise. The occasional glance out the bus window never came close to comparing to the all encompassing sensory experience of la bici (dog poop included). Moreover, it doesn’t do this beautiful city justice to sit on a bus and stare at your cellphone screen. Get on a bike and go! Just please heed my friend’s advice and wear a helmet too!