Encicla, from a student pilot project to 38 000 daily users !

Date: 18 Jun 2016
Cat: Bicycle, Colombia

Bogota, capital city of Colombia, is well-known across the world as THE bicycle city. Bogota proudly succeeded to get 6% of its daily trips done by bicycles. Medellin, second economic center of the country, is mostly known for its innovative and amazing infrastructural projects (urban metrocables, BRT, integrated system or urban escalators). However, since 2011, Medellin works on new urban sustainable mobility program such as encicla; a public bike-sharing system!

Let’s discover this project initated by students of EAFIT (University of Medellin) !

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Encicla is a service of public bike-sharing such as velib in Paris or ecobici in CDMX (or Mexico City) operated by the Area Metropolitana del Valle de Aburra (the metropolitan area of the Aburra’s valley)*.

This service is available in two municipalities of this agglomeration: Medellin and Sabaneta.

Recently, this project was scaled-up in Medellin. Indeed, it is the result of a small pilot led by students of EAFIT’s university in 2011.

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How it works ?

  • Users can find racks of bikes at several key locations of the city where the road conditions are ideals (flat surface, bicycle lanes…).
  • Users use their existing transport card CIVICA and/or register themselves by providing a copy of their ID document.
  • User can use a bike freely for one hour.
  • The service is available from Monday to Friday starting at 5h30 am until 7 pm – For your information, schools start at 6 am in Medellin.

To make life easier for users, encicla has developed a dedicated application, free and available on Android. It allows :

  • To locate the closest stations.
  • To know the exact number of bikes available on a rack (real-time).
  • To know the exact number of free-spots on a rack (real-time).

And the Area Metropolitana del Valle de Aburra goes further with 3 programs to encourage the use of bicycle :

  • Al trabajo en Cicla (bike-to-work): this program promotes the use of bikes to go to work every Wednesday. They ease the creation of groups of bikers to link economic and residential centers.
  • Al colegio en Cicla (bike-to-school): this program was initiated by Bogota to promote the use of bikes to go to school daily. Teachers are trained to give lessons dedicated to bicycle such as: bicycling culture, bicycling history, how to use a bicycle, how to repair it, road safety and how to behave when riding a bicycle.  
  • La escuela del Bici (the bicycle school): this program teaches everybody how to use a bicycle; and it is not only for young children! Indeed, lots of adults haven’t got the chance yet to learn how to use a bicycle.  


What are the key success factors of this project?

  • « We have decided to build stations very close from one another. If a user doesn’t find a bicycle at a station, it is very simple for him to go to the next station by walk. Thus, he is not discouraged. Alejandra Alvarez (Area Metropolitana)
  • It is a new transport mode which has been integrated to an existing transport system. To access to the service, users can use their existing transport card : CIVICA.
  • It is a free service for users.
  • Stations are located close by other transport modes: Metro, Metroplus, and MetroCable.
  • We have noticed that one limit of the use of bicycle as an urban transport mode in Medellin is: safety. People don’t feel safe on the road. We have worked on building a proper infrastructure: ciclorutas (bicycle lanes)”. Alejandra Alvarez (Area Metropolitana).These lanes are easily recognizable as they are painted in red at almost each intersection. Car drivers and bikers have road signs which support the cohabitation between these two different ways of commuting.

And today, Encicla it is :

  • 38 000, the number of active users
  • 10, daily using rate
  • 42 km of ciclorutas.
  • 51 : the number of existing stations (32 automatics/ 2 manuals)
  • + than 2300 tones of CO2 saved

And encicla was the trigger for the use of private bikes as a mode of urban transport. Before its implementation, in 2012, it was estimated that bicycles were representing 0,5% of the daily commuting trips. Today, it has grown by 300% and reaches almost 2% !


In the short term, the Area Metropolitana wants to focus on women and makes them used bicycle. Today women represent only 24% of the existing users.

However the Area Metropolitana thinks bigger for the coming years. In its Plan de Ordenamiento Territorial (POT) or the territorial development plan, Medellin aims to develop a network of 400 km of ciclorutas. « If we add the whole agglomeration, we could reach 600 km of bicycle lanes. We would have the biggest network of Colombia », declares Ivan Reinaldo Sarmiento Ordosgoitia, Doctor in transport at the National University of Colombia. There is a huge potential. Dr. Orgosgoitia estimates that bicycling could absorb 5% of the total daily trips, which means 220 000 trips. Thus, it will support Medellin in controlling its CO2 emission and improve its quality of life.  

Stay tuned, does Medellin will follow the footsteps of Bogota?

* The Area Metropolitana Valle de Aburra is a governmental organization of 9 municipalities est une organisation gouvernementale qui regroupe 9 municipalités : Medellin,Caldas, La Estrella, Itagüí, Sabaneta, Bello, Copacabana, Girardota et Barbosa. One of its department works on urban mobility and sustainable development. This organization allows a harmonization of the urban development policies in every municipality.
**EAFIT: famous university of Medellin; EAFIT has a department dedicated to urban mobility. To know more about it:

To know more :