Like so many other santiaguinas and santiaguinos, I work far from where I live. This means that one of the first things I do every morning is squeeze myself into a crowded, overheated subway car, then get off some time later and squeeze myself onto a crowded, overheated bus. I love public transportation, but there is very little to love about this commute. By the time I get to work, I feel like I've lost a fight. I can only imagine what it's like for people who don't look up maps of bus routes online for fun.
Needless to say, the routine was wearing on me, and I needed a change. That's when BiciMetro came into my life. For those who don't know, BiciMetro is a recently instituted program that allows Metro riders to store their bikes for the day at select stations around the city. I hadn't used it before because I was afraid that adding yet another mode of transport to my commute would lengthen it substantially, but when I plotted everything out, I concluded that the difference, if it existed at all, would be minimal and well worth the exercise. Plus, a couple minutes would be a small price to play for cutting my Metro time down to a fraction of what it had been before and moving it to a much less congested stretch of track.
My plan was to try BiciMetro on Tuesday, but my tire went flat about two blocks from my house and I was forced to turn around. Things went much more smoothly today, when my new tire and I (my fashionably eclectic bike now has one city tire and one mountain bike tire) set off from home and pulled up about 15 minutes later outside the BiciMetro, a locked room where bikes hang from the ceiling in individual padlocked lockers. Since my work day starts a bit later than most people's, I was worried that all the lockers would be full by the time I got there, but I arrived to find only one other slot taken.
I signed up, got a receipt, left my bike and got on the Metro. On my way home at night, I bought a ticket for 300 pesos (about US$0.60) at the Metro ticket counter and exchanged it for my bike. As I pedaled home, I thought about the positive impact the change had made on my day. Not only had I actually been excited to get out of bed and commute, but I had arrived at work with more energy and a better attitude. Also, it felt great to know that I was getting exercise while communing with the city I love. I have tomorrow off work, but I think I'll find an excuse to use BiciMetro anyway.
I'm surprised that so few people seem to use the BiciMetro nearest me. Of course, it does imply an extra cost (300 pesos per day or 1000 pesos for a five-day pass) that I'm sure a lot of people would rather avoid. Also, BiciMetros tend to be located in outlying areas whose residents have long commutes that they may not be willing to make longer by trading a bus for a bike. Still, the benefits are enough for me to encourage anyone who lives reasonably close to a BiciMetro to use it, even if just for fun every once in awhile. There's nothing quite like deepening your relationship with a city by traversing it on two wheels.