With its remarkable weather, fantastic vistas, and more than 200km (124mi) of bicycle paths and lanes (plus many other roads closed to automobile traffic on Sundays and holidays), Rio de Janeiro is fast becoming one of the most bicycle-friendly metropolises in South America and the world. Travel sites rank biking as one of the top activities to enjoy in Rio, while international bike activists like Talking Heads frontman David Byrne and Copenhagenize founder Mikael Colville-Andersen make waves when they roll into town on their two-wheeled cruisers.
You can bike from the airport into Rio proper, perhaps on one of Rio’s popular cargo bikes with plenty of carrying capacity for your luggage, or enjoy dozens of other bike paths. There are many private places to rent bikes, including many hostels and hotels, as well as several bike tour operations geared to travelers.
Best of all, Mayor Eduardo Paes has just inaugurated 11 bike rental stations in Copacabana, the first of 60 secure docking stations that will make some 600 bicycles available to the public. This is the beginning of the Bike Rio public bicycle program, echoing similar initiatives in Paris, Amsterdam, Mexico City, San Francisco, and other cities around the world.
The new public bike rental program allows Rio residents and foreign travelers to rent and return bicycles at any of the 60 stations for US$3 per day. Unlike the similar Samba Bike initiative promoted in 2009, foreign credit cards are accepted. (You must pay by credit card, including a stiff deposit, because of problems with theft and vandalism around the city.)
There are other caveats as well. For instance, you must reserve a bike online, ahead of time, through their website, but you can download the free app to do it from your smartphone or other device. Keep in mind that crime remains a serious issue in the Marvelous City; try to park your bike at an official Bike Rio lot, rather than taking a risk by locking it up against a tree or post.
And enjoy! By Christmas, the inevitable kinks in the new system will be working themselves out, leaving you with the freedom only two wheels can offer.
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