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EcoBici - CDMX, Mexico

Effect of a large-scale, public bicycle-sharing program on urban health: A natural experiment in Mexico City

Active transportation in Mexico City

Bicycle sharing programs have the potential to increase the number of people in cities that use bicycles to commute or exercise by improving access for people who do not own bicycles, increasing the convenience of bicycling by eliminating the need to park, and by normalizing cycling as a form of transportation.

The Ecobici program opened in 2010 in Mexico City, funded by the government and implemented by the Secretariat of Environment. Since then, the program has experienced constant expansion. To date, a total of 480 stations and more than 6,800 bicycles are operating in eight neighborhoods. More than 276,000 people have become members of the program since it launched in 2010. Ecobici is the largest bicycle sharing program in Latin America.

Mexico City residents are becoming more sedentary, and increased use of bicycles for commuting could reduce this trend and promote health among a population experiencing high rates of obesity and diabetes. Increased cycling can also promote reductions in transportation-related emissions that contribute to air pollution and climate change. Mexico City experiences consistently high levels of air pollution.

EcoBici in Mexico City 

The SALURBAL Study

To date, very few natural experiments have been conducted to evaluate the health impacts of bicycle sharing programs. In response to this evidence gap, SALURBAL researchers from the National Institute of Public Health in Mexico (INSP) and Washington University in St. Louis, in collaboration with the local Secretariat  of Mobility in Mexico City, are working to measure the effect of ongoing expansions to the Ecobici system and the impact of this new bicycling infrastructure on ridership.

The study aims to:

  • Capture area-level changes in bicycle ridership after the implementation of the proposed cycling infrastructure expansions.
  • Investigate which transportation modes are substituted when transitioning to Ecobici.
  • Test differences in overall and transport-related physical activity between Ecobici users, other bicycle users and non-bicycle users.
  • Explore longitudinal variations in the users’ demographics, including age groups and gender participation.
  • Investigate individual variations in travel time, distance and speed among regular Ecobici users.
  • Explore the contribution of Ecobici to meeting physical activity recommendations among users.

Researchers are collecting data using questionnaires, street audits, GIS data, GPS data, accelerometry, and direct observation. They have worked directly with the Secretariat of Mobility to gain access to Ecobici’s historical database to analyze ridership and usage patterns over time.

Study Timeline

EcoBici Project Timeline

Partnerships and Collaborators

The Mexico City Secretariat of Mobility has made this policy evaluation possible through their active participation and willingness to share data. The study would not be possible without the participation of Mexico City residents who have generously given their time and input to support the data collection process.