The city of Buenos Aires is committed to becoming carbon neutral by 2050 through actions across sectors, including the transport sector. The “More Bikes, Less Emissions” initiative aims to encourage active travel and the use of bicycles. As part of the initiative, the Protected Bicycle Lanes Network programme was introduced in 2009, which included a bicycle sharing scheme and a 286 km long bicycle lane network throughout the city. Since 2013, there has been a 131% increase in the number of bicycle trips in the city and in 2020, CO2 emissions were reduced by around 12,155 tons. The programme also reduced the number of cyclists killed on the road from 0.10 per million trips in 2015 to 0.02 per million trips in 2020.
Buenos Aires is already experiencing the impacts of climate change with prolonged and recurrent heatwaves, increased average temperatures, and increased rainfall. The city is committed to combating climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and aims to become carbon neutral by 2050. The city has introduced a number of actions to reduce both greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution. Among these are actions supporting a transition to clean mobility and sustainable modes of transport, including the "More Bikes, Less Emissions" ("Más Bicis, Menos Emisiones") programme.
Since 2009, the city has encouraged active travel, developed a network of bicycle lanes throughout the city, and also introduced EcoBici, a bicycle sharing scheme. The scheme allows citizens to rent a bicycle for free 24 hours a day, every day, all year long. The cycle network now spans more than 286 km and connects the city centre with nearby populous neighbourhoods.
The cycle lanes strategically link key areas and buildings, such as schools, universities and hospitals in the city, as well as reaching less densely populated areas to ensure the bike lanes are accessible to all. In addition, there are now around 270 Ecobici stations available across 15 Communes in Buenos Aires.
The city not only encourages use of the bicycles, but also offers free-instalment loans for bicycle purchases through the local Banco Ciudad. Furthermore, safe storage and parking areas for bicycles throughout the city are being developed.
Since 2013, there has been a 131% increase in the number of bicycle trips made in Buenos Aires. In 2020, cycling accounted for 10% of all trips made in the city. Based on survey data on travel mode shifts and cycle trips in the city, it is estimated that the bicycle programme resulted in a reduction of 12,155 tons of CO2 emissions in 2020.
In addition to the environmental benefits, the cycle programme was also implemented to create safer roads for cyclists. The number of cyclists killed decreased from 0.10 per million cycle trips in 2015 to 0.02 per million cycle trips in 2020, and many of the fatal cycling accidents which occurred between 2015 and 2018 were outside the network of cycle lanes.
There is also some indication that the new cycle lanes encouraged active travel by women; along the newly developed cycle lanes (Córdoba and Corrientes Avenues) there was a threefold increase in the number of cycle trips made by female cyclists.
The city has a long history of recognising the importance of safe, active travel, which facilitated the development of the bike programme. Creating both cycle lanes and a bike sharing scheme also encouraged those without a bike to take up cycling. The Covid-19 pandemic also amplified the need for cycle lanes and a bike sharing scheme, as many citizens avoided crowded public transport and took up cycling instead. To deal with this increase during the pandemic, the cycle lane network was expanded by a further 17km. The city aims to reach one million daily cycle trips by 2023. In order to reach this target, Buenos Aires plans on expanding the cycle lanes network and the EcoBici network to every neighbourhood in the city.
Whilst the number of cycling trips in the city has increased, a survey from 2019 showed that the average distance of each cycle trip was only 3km. In addition, due to the pandemic, delivery services and e-commerce have become more popular, increasing urban traffic and congestion. As mentioned above, the bike program demonstrated a reduction of 12,155 tons of CO2 emissions in 2020, and the transport sector in Buenos Aires alone emitted around 3.6 megatons of CO2 equivalent. It is estimated that the bicycle program will result in a reduction of 94,319 tons of CO2 in 2023.
For this reason, a bike program alone will not be sufficient to create substantial change. To reduce overall emissions from the sector the city has also implemented actions to reduce the number of cars on the streets. The aim is to establish Buenos Aires as a polycentric city, with multiple city centres where people can work, run errands and carry out leisure activities in their neighbourhood. This will transform a street in each of the 48 neighbourhoods into a 'meeting street', a pedestrian zone with recreational activities. This is a similar concept to the “15-minute city”, an urban living concept, where essential amenities can be reached within a 15-minute walk or bike ride (C40, 2020). The aim is to create walkable and bikeable neighbourhoods to reduce the need to travel to the city centre and to avoid traffic congestion.