Other Transportation, Transportation

Biking in Buenos Aires

Madi Lang

By | July 23, 2009 | 29 comments

Bikers in Buenos Aires

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.

Madi Lang
LPBA Staff

Wow! Don't forget to check the 'Activities you might like' right here

SO FAR, THIS ARTICLE HAS 29 COMMENTS!

  1. Elena

    24/07/2009 - 1:41 am

    One way streets are actually a help I find – no unexpected turning and all traffic headed the same way. I try to cycle along the wider roads because there's a good slipstream on either side – all drivers know there'll be a car park somewhere along the way so tend to stick to the middle, creating a handy cycle lane on either side. Also, it's good to get to the front at traffic light so you get a head start and all the cars/buses have seen you. Pavements are for walking, drives me wild to see someone cycling along a pavement. You can't pick up enough speed for fear of knocking someone over so you might as well walk anyway.

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  2. mcaffa

    24/07/2009 - 2:33 pm

    I highly recommend getting to know buenos Aires by this means. I haven't ventured off on my own to bike around the city but I did take a bike tour up to Tigre with Urban Biking (http://en.urbanbiking.com) when I first moved here a few years ago. It was definitely an experience. Tour companies like this one often rent bikes by the day as well – could be a good alternative to purchasing a bike if you are just looking to take an occassional ride.

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  3. Chris

    25/07/2009 - 3:40 am

    I have really enjoyed biking in BsAs even though it was scary at first…. The weekends are the best because the traffic is so much lighter! Does anyone have suggestions about where to leave a bike if commuting to work/school? Locks seem pretty useless, and someone mentioned "bike lockers" to me before I came down here, but in 6 months I haven't been able to find out any more…. Any advice would be awesome!

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  4. David

    25/07/2009 - 9:17 pm

    What the author hints at , but fails to emphasize sufficiently , is that Bs As drivers are among the most inconsiderate in the world. One wonders what kind of cyclist the author is to recommend ridng on sidewalks which is illegal in most civilized places. If it isn't in Bs As, it should be .In any event it is dangerous to pedestrians.
    Cycling in and around the city is best left for the parks except for certain routes and expert cyclists.

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  5. pob

    26/07/2009 - 1:37 am

    David, I agree, stop cycling on the pavement! It's annoying for pedestrians and should be illegal. The author mentioned being a 'savvy bike rider' – well a savvy bike rider doesn't need 'ramps' to ride up and down kerbs…
    Top tip – on main avenues ride on the left hand side, thus avoiding slow moving taxis and crazy buses who WILL cut you up.

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  6. letsbehonest

    26/07/2009 - 11:03 pm

    while its fun to be a little rude when its anonymous its more fun to take part in a forum when criticism is kind and helpful :) lets keep it up beat!

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  7. David

    27/07/2009 - 1:14 am

    Dear letsbehonest,
    Do you live in Bs As or ride a bicycle in any big city? I do both. That is, I live (part time) in Bs As and I cycle a lot in Rio where I also have a residence.
    I am contemplating buying and riding a bike in Bs As. If I do, I will use the city streets, not the sidewalks, to get to the parks. Thankfully, I live in the Recoleta close to Av Libertador with easy access to the parks.
    I'm all for maximizing fun except, of course, at the cost of the safety and well being of others. Keeping a forum discussion "upbeat" doesn't preclude straightforward criticism submitted to correct bad advice. Sometimes, even harsh criticism can be warranted. For example, I would harshly criticize anyone who advised driving on the left hand side of the road in Bs As.
    Of course, rudeness, per se, is unwaranted, but I have not read any rude comments here…unless you interpret the expression of my bewilderment at the authors' advice of riding on city sidewalks or pob's concurrence therein, as such. I don't. (Continued below).

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  8. David

    27/07/2009 - 1:14 am

    One wonders whether the authors of this piece, Ms Lang and staff, actually cycle in the city. Bs As streets are extremely dangerous for cyclists (and pedestrians) and the failure to accurately paint that picture is a tremendous disservice to readers who are contemplating cycling while in Bs As.
    The stern expression of a contrary opinion is not in and of itself rude. To accuse contributors who submit critical comments of mischief engendered by the anonymity of the net is sophomoric.You wouldn't work here by any chancee, would you?

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    1. Jed Rothenberg

      27/07/2009 - 4:33 pm

      How ironic, no email listed with the "letsbehonest" comment. It is not one of our writers as far as I know. Most of them enjoy reading the criticisms and additions left by the LPBA readers. I agree, whether it be negative or positive, it is helpful.

      And no, you couldn't pay me to ride a bike in this city. I've already been hit by a moped while walking.

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      1. Madi

        30/07/2009 - 2:07 pm

        pistol whipped by a moped….thats hot

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  9. Madi

    27/07/2009 - 4:15 am

    Hi! Thanks David and Pob for putting in your 2 cents.

    I wrote the article :) I do live and bike in BA and agree that riding on the sidewalks in probably not a good idea. I only find myself doing it if I have a bus behind me or similar because the streets can get scary. I love bike riding and want to keep it safe – but you both make a good point that its not safe for pedestrians no matter how careful the biker is.

    I mentioned that the streets are dangerous and I should reiterate that point. It is always important to look both ways (even on one-way streets) and be aware that stop signs are not obeyed by cars.

    Responsible cycling is 100% necessary in BA and safety is the responsibility of the rider. Never assume a car will stop or that the driver can see you. Bikers should wear a light that flashes and should NOT RIDE with headphones on at any time of day.

    Any more advice out there for safe riding?

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    1. pob

      30/07/2009 - 2:46 am

      Hi Madi! You make a good point when you say that safety is the responsibility of the rider. I'm an experienced rider (I used to race cross-country in the UK) and so far (touch wood!) I've not had an accident here, although I've come very close on a few occasions, always due to the lack of courtesy of car drivers.

      My tips:
      - ALWAYS wear a helmet
      - ride on the left hand side of the road to avoid buses and taxis
      - avoid rush hours
      - ANTICIPATION and AWARENESS is key – is that parked car going to open it's door and knock you off? Is that bus that just overtook you going to cut you up?
      - don't expect any courtesy
      - have eyes in the back of your head
      - have a good insult in mind to shout at taxi drivers!

      Top Tip – take Avenida Belgano eastwards on a Sat or Sun to get to Costanera Sur y La Reserva – here you can bike round a nature reserve with no traffic or hassles

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  10. Madi

    30/07/2009 - 2:06 pm

    Great tips pob!

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  11. Nat

    11/08/2009 - 1:29 pm

    Biking in BA is disgusting. There is smoke and crap coming out of every tailpipe and into your face. And nobody respects the rules. Including bikers. It's a terrible, terrible idea to bike most streets in BA.

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  12. Justin

    11/08/2009 - 4:28 pm

    Got to agree here. Definitely not the best place to bike around. In some of the parks, the nature reserve, but anywhere else will not be a good time.

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  13. john

    12/08/2009 - 7:46 pm

    youre all a bunch of wimps! now that i got your attention…

    Biking in any big city (and I've ridden in many and in much worse conditions than Av Cordoba at 7pm) is dangerous but to do it right you have to mix it up, can't stay on the side-lanes. Yes, if you like a pleasant stroll with your grandma or kids, bike around a park, thats sweet. But if biking is your commute, you got to be tough, ride in all lanes, kick traffics ass when possible and cruise when not. Biking is the best way to get around if you can handle it….I can go JB Justo to LAlem in 20 minutes if need be…but again, you have to know what you are doing.
    Being careful-careful is not always the best way to bike…not to really utilize it.
    (Most pedestrian deaths, fyi, occur when they are standing on the sidewalk or within their rights, crossing a street.)

    Also, after years spent fighting for bikers (and pedestrians) rights in NYC, I realize that its a long battle to get your fair share of the street. Here in BA, its even much more difficult but you have to FIGHT for your space against taxis, buses and the motorists who really believe that they have the right of way in all instances. Its a struggle but its gotta be done….if you dont fight for safe streets and ride like the streets are yours too, there will never be wide bike lanes and motorist awareness, things that WILL improve bike safety.

    Also…regarding, bike theft, I have found that BA is one of the better cities, there doesnt seem to be such a big market for stolen bikes…A standard lock and chain is more than enough to guarantee your bike will be there when you leave work, etc….unlike those behemoths you need in NYC!

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  14. Aussie

    12/08/2009 - 10:10 pm

    Ya gotta be nuts to ride a bike around this crazy town; a place where suicidal tendencies reign supreme.
    I dig the fact that biking is enviromentally friendly, but a bus, train or subway is much safer…but offer no guarantees that you'll arrive to your destination safe and sound. In a nut shell, well, that's the safest place to be.
    Tally HO!

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  15. David

    14/08/2009 - 1:22 pm

    John above writes:
    1. "you got to be tough, ride in all lanes, kick traffics ass when possible and cruise when not" ; 2. " careful is not always the best way to bike";
    3. "you have to FIGHT for your space against taxis, buses and the motorists who really believe that they have the right of way in all instances. Its a struggle but its gotta be done"… to all of which I say – nonsense!
    I have not cycled in Bs As, but I do not feel that precludes my observation on these remarks. Make no mistake, I laud anyone's effort to fight sensibly for the rights of pedestrians and cyclists in Bs As., however battling in the streets per se by kicking traffic's ass is a sure fire way to meet your maker. The FIGHT that John should be championing should not take place in the streets but rather in public discourse and political activism. That is only sane venue for the stuggle for cyclists' rights. John's advice that being careful in always the best way to bike is patently absurd. Get a grip on yourself, John. You are not in Kansas anymore .The same conduct you could get away with in New York will get you killed in Bs As.

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    1. Jack

      14/08/2009 - 4:25 pm

      damn, david!
      lot of anger in you, isn't there.
      valium's good for that. as well as a little mary jane.
      sometimes sex helps.
      consider these before you start insulting strangers…especially talented strangers such as john harris.
      there are ways of exprresing your opinions in a civil manner.
      anyway…

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      1. john

        14/08/2009 - 8:33 pm

        jack…how'd you know it was me? I guess cuz im patently absurd….
        by the way…i love the wizard of oz….especially the part with public discourse and political activism….
        but i will have to get back later for a response to David who never rode a bike in Buenos Aires or a mi me parace in … New York or San Fran…or Rome …or… Mumbai…
        but he is right…to be safe, you need to be safe and public discourse and political activism are sane venues….

        more on that later but now i need to get to recoleta in 15 minutes….how to do, how to do??…..safely (and skillfully).

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  16. David

    14/08/2009 - 10:01 pm

    Damn Jack,
    How odd that you ridicule me because I labeled as nonsense John's statements that being careful is not always the best way to bike in Bs As. and that one should kick traffic's ass. Are you related to Letsbehonest? Was my reply to John so harsh you think I need drugs to treat my rage and that think I owe John an apology for insulting him by characterizing his statements as nonsense? Okay, let me apologize like Fred Mertz apologized to Ethyl on the I love Lucy show. Fred called Ethyl fat. Lucy insisted that he say he was sorry. Fred turned to Ethyl and said "I'm sorry you are so fat. Likewise, I'm sorry, sorry that John uttered such nonsense.
    You seem to know John Harris and appear to revere him. I don't know him and I don' t care how talented a cyclist he may be. His statements are nonsense.
    Not that it matters but I cycled a lot in NYC, Seattle, and Rio.
    Frankly , I don't think I was insulting to John himself as you were to me. I didn' t make a personal attack. You did. I'm not sure from his reply whether he meant his words seriously. I can't believe he did.

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    1. jack

      15/08/2009 - 2:17 am

      lol..
      it's all good!

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  17. john

    14/08/2009 - 10:08 pm

    david and jack….take it easy guys….I dont want anyone insulting anyone, especially in my name and I did not find davids comments insulting
    Back to the point at hand…cycling in the city. I like to ride fast, I like to ride in traffic, I like to use my bike to get around the city as fast as possible. I get a giant rush going faster than cars and, if you will, beating them at their own game. If anyone has a problem with that, you can go anda cagar.
    If one likes to ride tranquilo in parks and designated areas, thats fine, I like that too, but there is another kind of riding. Hey, some people like to ski the bunny slopes and others like to jump out of a helicopter and ski a mountainside…pick your poison.
    There is another issue …those that say its too crazy, too much traffic, your nuts to ride, etc, usually seem to be the types that just assume streets are meant for cars only and that is something with which I totally disagree. And while I understand David’s point about fighting for changes with ‘political activism’, something I also do, there is another school of thought which says, you demand your fair share of the street and take your lumps. Yes, riding tough is more dangerous, but to me there is no other way. Why ride on the side, safe and slow, getting pushed around by cars that cut you off and going so slow that you lose the advantage of biking? If I wanted to be stuck in traffic, I’d buy a car. And frankly, it doesnt really make it much safer, the unfortunates that I do know who have been seriously injured by cars were not riding tough, were riding slowly and safely.
    In response to David, I think it smarter if he read my comment with the tone it was delivered…when I say its better not to be “careful-careful”, I meant, riding with only safety in mind will get you nowhere fast. To assume that those that ride rough are not careful, is kind of naive…I’ll refer to my skiing analogy…those that ski virgin slopes or surf giant waves are also careful, just at a higher level. Also, its a bit much to come down on the writer of the original piece as being irresponsible by encouraging blah blah blah….I mean, anyone with eyes or ears will know that the traffic in this city is dangerous and should be careful if they venture out.
    If its the same David who wrote a few comments earlier, it seems that you dont want bikers on the sidewalk or in left lanes(?) and that the streets are too dangerous for bikers anyway…. You’ve kind of left us little option to do something that we are entirely within our rights to do…and all this coming from someone who doesnt even bike in BA….
    Lastly, I didnt appreciate your comment about what I can do in New York I can’t do here nor your comment that implied BA is not a civilized place. If you really rode gotham, you would know that its as dangerous as BA, just in different ways. And lastly, lastly, while I always give pedestrians the right of way, there are many seemingly harmless things pedestrians do that are life threatening to bikers…one for example….if you wait to cross the street standing a few feet into the street, you cut off a bikers lane and force him/her out further into the street, thus endangering them, esp when turning a corner. Bikers have as much right to the streets as anyone else and until there are specific laws and lanes established to protect cyclists, I see no reason to simply adhere to laws and patterns designed for car traffic. If you think that is nonsense or foolish, that’s fine, enjoy your ride through the park, but stay out of my way Fred.

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  18. David

    15/08/2009 - 5:02 am

    John , how is it you can write such a long comment? When I tried I got a notice that mine was too long and I had to shorten it?
    Anyway, I am glad you did not find my criticism of your earlier statements insulting. It was not meant to be just as your "wimps" intro was obviously tongue in cheek. You are apparently a daredevil who gets a thrill out of competing with the mad Bs As vehicular traffic. But even you admit it is dangerous. Most riders would not risk their safety the way you enjoy doing. You sound like an ex-NYC bike messenger on speed ( just kidding). Me? I am retired so I don't need a bike to commute to work or otherwise use it to get from one place to another on a schedule. Call me a wimp, but I'll stick to the parks for the most part. I wish it were safer to ride in the streets here. I trust you concur that the sidewalks are out of bounds as is going the wrong way on a one way street..
    We do both agree that cyclists should seek to create an atmosphere more bike friendly by engaging in political activity. The other school of thought to which you refer, the school of tough riding ( aka the "Dammit, I'll show those f***ing drivers a thing or two about who gets to go first " school) , is one which I refuse to attend on the grounds it isn't going to effect change and is much more likely to get me injured.
    I lived and biked in NYC (Manhattan) not to commute but to tour the city. In my opinion the NYC drivers are significantly more considerate than those in Bs As. I loathe the Bs As drivers. I'm not sure why you are so offended by my attitude on this or interpret it to mean I am describing Bs As as an uncivilized place in all respects. I don't know how to account for the phenomenon, but even nice people turn into a Mr Hyde when they get behind the wheel here. It' s not only bikers' rights that are ignored, but pedestrians as well, not to mention other drivers. Driver on driver crime accounts for more deaths per capita here than almost anywhere else in the world according to UN studies. The undisputed fact is that both cyclists and pedestrians are denied the right of way by drivers when according to the law they are entitled to it. To this extent it is uncivilized, uncivilized in the sense that people do not act civilly to one another. Moreover, the city has not developed many bike lanes so cyclists are sadly required to mix it up with the cars.
    Lastly, two wrongs don't make a right. You "see no reason to simply adhere to laws" because others refuse to acknowledge your right of way. I don't believe that gives you the right to ride in such a way as to endanger others, piss off drivers, and give cyclists a bad rep. It isn't helpful. To the extent you condone such behavior as part of your devil may care, tough riding tactics I think you are wrong. And if you try to do me in or tell me to go take a carga while whizzing too close to me,and insisting I stay out of your way, you had better be prepared to engage me physically. That's my right to defend myself from others who threaten my safety. Ethyl.

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  19. john

    18/08/2009 - 2:09 pm

    ok ..man, lets put it to rest. ive been bikin like this for 25 years and have heard and made all the arguments….and seein as its just you and i talkin here, might as well let me buy you a beer at casa bar and we can hash it out then.
    also…she’s not a straight-chain alcohol, her name is Ethel.

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  20. David

    19/08/2009 - 1:05 am

    where the heck is casa bar?

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  21. Chris

    20/09/2009 - 6:56 pm

    Hi guys,
    I plan to come to BsAs in December for 2 weeks, since I am going to travel to other countries after that, I am taking my fixed gear with me. A friend of mine who's from argentina told me not to ride my bike other there. I wanted to know what you as riders thought about that, I am used to ride in Paris where it can be hectic, but not as crazy as it seems to be in BsAs.

    Chris

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  22. gabriel

    29/01/2010 - 5:33 am

    ive biked for 5 months in buenos aires when i was living there, iam from holland and as you know we are born on bikes..

    i have found it a very fast and very reliable method of transportation that cut my travel time back with at least half the time, or 2/3.. yes the roads are a little dangerous and you have to watch your ass with the drivers but if you pay close attention, always look before changes lanes and ect you will be fine..

    iam crazy fast and furious on my bike.. and only was in one minor accident in 5 months and that was because i dident look out and wasent the car's fault cos that day i was in extreme etreme rush.. i loveee biking in bsas..

    gabriel..

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  23. Eastcrete

    03/11/2012 - 6:29 am

    Hi everyone; im a (slightly crazy) female moving to BsAs for three months in January. When I lived in Cambodia i got sick of taking tuks or public transport and found it was better-and safer as a single woman to go everywhere on a bike -especially at night when it gives you more getaway potential than walking. I have a question-does anyone bike in BSAS at night and is it (relatively) safe???
    Many thanks!!

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