There is no doubt that Buenos Aires has great public transportation. That said, the eternal search for monedas, having to stand and sway in a packed bus or fainting from the heat inside the subte have led this veteran in search of alternatives. Bike riding is a great way to avoid scrounging for coins and provides a great workout. Here’s a list of pros and cons to help YOU decide if buying a bike in Buenos Aires is your next move.
Let’s take a look at the bright side! Here are some pros of biking in Buenos Aires:
1. Burn baby burn!
Biking is a great way to burn off the calories you’ve packed on devouring empanadas and facturas. The fast paced city certainly inspires fast peddling and it’s almost impossible to eat and bike at the same time. Believe me, I’ve tried.
2. Time is money.
If you know what route to take, you can actually cut your travel time significantly. A bus that normally takes 30 minutes to cross from Belgrano into Villa Crespo takes about half that on a bike.
3. One time cost
Once you’ve bought the bike you’re set. A helmet (which is not “cool” but entirely necessary) will set you back about $40 pesos, and repairs are very inexpensive. If you have a loose part, try taking your bike by a ferreteria (hardware store). Once there, challenge one of the hefty employees to prove his worth.
4. It’s easy being green!
Not that your absence will cut down on the pollution emitted by buses, trains and taxis, but there is some value in knowing that you did not contribute to the thick black smog.
Ojo! (watch out!) Here are a few things to watch out for while riding your bike around Buenos Aires:
1. Tenés la plata? (Do you have the cash?)
Buying a bike can be expensive. Buenos Aires is full of bicicleterias (bike stores). The current going rate for a used bike is about $350 pesos. If that seems a little too steep for your budget, the best way to find a cheaper bike is to check sites like craigslist.org or simply tell everyone you know that you are looking to buy a bike. Someone will know someone else who is selling a great bike at a reasonable price.
2. Street Obstacles and other Sidewalk Menaces
Riding in Buenos Aires is not easy, but it is fun and will certainly excite any thrill-seeker. Once you’ve got your bike, you can either ride on the street or ride on the sidewalk.
Street riding has its own pros and cons. The main avenues are nicely paved, but are dangerous because buses and other cars will ride your tail like a magnet. Occasional use of these avenues is fine, so long as you have a helmet and know where you’re going so you don’t have to quickly switch lanes. Other street riding aggravations include: the unexpected appearance of construction sites and bitter taxi drivers who seem to pass extra close on purpose.
When looking to avoid main streets, be aware that many Buenos Aires side streets have cobblestones. So romantic, right? Not for a bike rider. Riding on cobblestones is an uncomfortable experience that takes its toll on both the bike rider and the bike. Likewise, these side streets are likely to be in a state of disrepair, so watch out for potholes.
Sidewalk riding is my personal favorite, but present the bike rider with some difficulties as well. Toddlers, strollers, old people, coffee carts and parked cars are always obstacles. The savvy bike rider knows how to be patient and when to hop down to the street. Old people and slow walkers hate bike riders and they will let you know it. If they say something just throw them a kind, “Que Dios le bendiga,” and you’ll know you’ve gotten them back. Before choosing to rock the sidewalks, however, be forewarned that some have ramps for easy access and some don’t.
3. One way streets and train tracks
In Buenos Aires, most streets are one-way and crossing train tracks is inevitable in cross-barrio rides. My best advice is to practice learning the streets while on the buses and note where there is a transit break in the train tracks.
4. Avoiding rush hour
Traffic in Buenos Aires can be chaotic, so the best times to ride are between 11 am and 4pm—after the morning rush hour and before the afternoon buses seize the city. If you absolutely have to ride outside of these safety hours, then please avoid main avenues and big train or bus depots.
Want to take your own bike ride through Buenos Aires? Bike tours leave daily at 9am, 2pm, and 9pm and cost as little as $35 USD with bike, helmet, guide and snacks. Check it out.