Barcelona Bike Blog
Bicycle Parking on Carrer de la Providència

The example seen below of quality and spacious bike parking can be found outside the school c.e.i.p. pau casals-gràcia, on C/Providència.

One imagines that the teachers there must be delighted that they are able to arrive en masse on bike, to educate the area’s eager, bright young things.  And what a fantastic example for the children.  Just imagine a community of teachers, parents and children all cycling to school taking advantage of this great cycling facility, provided by the ajuntament.

For other residents, such as myself, it provides further benefits. 

Such as when the facility is overloaded and there is no room for me to squeeze my bicycle in (of course, as you can imagine lack of space here is an extremely rare thing) necessitating me to instead secure it to the railings seen in the background. 

Upon doing so, friendly parents make comments and veiled threats about the dubiousness of leaving a bicycle here.  A lively and mutually rewarding discussion ensues, and the ajuntament has thereby helped to promote inter-community relations.

Let me know if you come across any equally useful bicycle parking facilities!

Bike Parking

“Gracias caballero”: or the importance of good Public Relations in the war against cars

The other day while cycling down C/Providència I stopped at a zebra crossing to let an elderly lady cross the road.  She stopped in her tracks surprised, before carrying on, exclaiming happily: “Gracias caballero!”

Although pleased and charmed by her response I couldn’t help but feel too a little sad.  Sad that this lady should be so surprised that a cyclist stopped to let her cross the road.  The truth was that she was probably expecting me to rush past her or, worse, mow her down. 

For, unfortunately, in my experience on the streets of Barcelona, cyclists here are an inconsiderate bunch. 

Almost all cyclists in Barcelona jump red lights.  Even including parents out cycling with their children, which I witnessed on C/Diputació; the street that was also the scene of the sole cycling fatality of 2011).  I always stop now, even regardless of whether the street is deserted, and I’ve taken to trying to block the cycle lane now so that cyclists behind me also have to stop.  But I’m definitely in the minority. Most just career (or, more likely, trundle) past me without a care in the world.  Of course, when the lights turn green I catch them and leave them for dust without difficulty. 

Fast and fit cyclists don’t need to jump lights.

For me, not only do I now more firmly than ever believe that if cyclists want respect they should follow the rules of the road, I also feel it’s a PR thing.  Barcelona cyclists may want more cycle lanes, more respect and consideration on the roads, but at the same time they make it all too easy for pedestrians and drivers to respond with “all cyclists jump red lights and break the law”.  Why should cyclists be respected if they have absolutely no respect for their fellow road users or, more importantly, for pedestrians?

Not only do I witness cyclists jumping red lights, but as the old lady above knows all too well, they also tend to not stop at zebra crossings.  Bad road etiquette, bad cycling PR and plain inconsideration. 

It’s so easy to keep an eye out for people waiting to cross and they will always be grateful (not that they have to be) if you do.  Many times I stop and a car (or usually a moped) will zoom past me ignoring the crossing.  The pedestrian will see this and deep in their mind the cyclist will be elevated a little bit more above the motorist. 

More importantly, it may even lead to a pleasant interaction between cyclist and pedestrian, as in my case. 

Just imagine my new friend chatting with her friends after and telling them that not all cyclists are thugs…


Don Quixote

Boris vs Trias: a tale of two Mayors and their cycling policies

Two Olympic cities, two right wing mayors.  He of London needs no introduction: the all-dancing, all-flying, all-cycling future superstar-Prime Minister of Britain, Boris Johnson. 

Johnson, of the Conservative party, defeated his predecessor Ken Livingstone to become Mayor of London in 2008.  2012 saw him narrowly re-elected and proclaimed Olympic hero, and who knows what dizzying heights he will reach in the future.

Dangling Boris











Barcelona’s slightly less sexy mayor (maybe he needs some lessons in [Catalan President, Artur] Mas style) is Xavier Trias.  Trias, candidate of the conservative (and now seemingly Catalan independentist) Convergence and Union (CiU) party, became Mayor of Barcelona in 2010; taking over from the socialist Jordi Hereu.  Trias studied and worked as a doctor for many years, so one would expect him to be savvy as to how cycling can help improve health amidst all its other benefits. 

Sensible looking chap isn’t he?

Trias











So are they cyclists then?

Boris’s cycling credentials are well documented.  Amongst Londoners, anecdotes abound of having seen Boris blundering his way around the capital on his bike.  Do an image search in Google for “Boris cycling” and you will be inundated with zany shots of the cycling Mayor.  He was once even almost killed by a Lorry on his own London streets.

Although Trias claims to be a keen cyclist (“Soy aficionado a la práctica de deportes, como ir en bicicleta”), it is a little more difficult to find any evidence of this.  Anyone who has seen him out and about, dodging pedestrians down Diagonal or something, please let me know. 

What have they done for cyclists?

As well as the infamous “Cycle Superhighways”, Johnson’s main cycling achievement has been to carry out Ken Livingstone’s bike hire idea.  Launched in 2010, it was actually modelled on existing schemes such as in Paris and Barcelona.  The London scheme now has 8,300 bikes with 687 stations and is soon to be expanded, even to the backwaters of South West London. 

Conversely, Trias cannot claim any credit for the Barcelona Bicing system.  One of the first such schemes in the world, Bicing was launched in 2007 by the socialist Hereu.  It now has 6000 bikes (all of which can be found at the beach) and 420 stations.  Sounds great doesn’t it!  Just imagine cycling happily around this beautiful city, soaking up the Mediterranean sunshine.

Not for Trias.  Far from being a fan of the eco-friendly and stylish (well…) Bicing bikes, grumblings were heard from his camp about its cost even before he became mayor.  Subsequently, rather than cleverly taking his opponents project and shaping it to help boost his own image like his PR-wise London counterpart (the Barclays bikes are commonly known as Boris Bikes), the Barcelona Mayor has been more reactionary and negative in his handling of Bicing.

While Johnson has recently announced the aforementioned expansion of Barclays Bike Hire, Trias’s Ayuntamiento have (gleefully and spitefully, one can almost imagine) made public that they will raise the annual fee of Bicing by a massive 116%, claiming lack of funds to be the justification (I have no idea why they cannot introduce sponsorship as in London). 

But what is disappointing is the rhetoric.  Barcelona Metropolitan quotes deputy Barcelona mayor Sònia Recasens: “The deficit generated by Bicing is intolerable; it’s a service valued by users, but that is very expensive for the city.” 

Depressing words. 

Johnson, on the other hand, proudly proclaims that “Every Londoner should be able to take advantage of our hugely popular and iconic Barclays Cycle Hire scheme which has already brought untold benefits to London’s commuters, businesses and visitors alike.”

Trias instead has had the bright idea of throwing even more Motos (albethey electric) onto the streets of Barcelona.  For that there is money!  His idea is to create a similar hire scheme, this time for electric scooters; using Bicing stations as charging points.

Well, at least they’ll have plenty of space.

Empty Station






















The Bicing price hike is perceived by some to be a threat to its very existence and there is already a twitter campaign to help save it (#SalvemElBicing) from Trias’s murderous hands.

But why does he hate it so much?   This interview with the ex – transport minister Francisco Narváez suggests that it is because he is a conservative politician “El hecho de que el señor Trias esté en contra de la bicicleta en definitiva es la mejor demostración de que la política del señor Trias y de Convergència es conservadora.”  But we know from the example of Johnson that this is not always the case.  Maybe it is a case of simply being jealous of a good idea that was not yours. 

Yet what a shame that the medically-trained Trias cannot recognise the health benefits of getting more Barcelonins active and that he cannot consider (as we have seen Johnson do above) the economic benefits that increasing cycling brings to a city.

Pandering

Even worse is Trias’s indulgence in Daily Mail-esque cyclist bashing.  He has talked of a conflict between cyclists and pedestrians (“auténtico conflicto entre peatones y ciclistas”) and has recently announced that from 2013 it will be illegal for cyclists to ride on the pavements of Barcelona.  Not to mention proposals to make helmets mandatory.

However much you may agree with these ideas (and a large number of Barcelona cyclists do need educating), it is the anti-cycling hostility, tone and apparent desire to eradicate cyclists from the streets that Trias seems to demonstrate that is so worrying. 

Johnson is not, of course, above pandering to anti-cycling hysteria.  He recently claimed that most cyclists killed on the roads had broken the law, before later admitting that this had just been something he’d heard someone say in a meeting.  Crazy old Boris.

It is a shame that both mayors have to resort to such silliness instead of doing something more positive, like helping to educate their citizens on road safety and respect and seeking to create a shared environment (with less cars…cough cough…).

Speaking of road safety

So far, during Johnson’s tenure, the number of cyclists killed on London streets seems to be going up; with 16 people killed in 2011.  However, perhaps we need to take into consideration the number of cyclists, which has doubled since 2000.  The Economist states that around 540,000 bike trips are made in the city each day.  In Barcelona, in 2011, 2 cyclists were killed, with around 111,000 daily journeys.

Encouragingly, Trias has recently been making whisperings about cyclist safety and has promised a full review into the safety of the city’s cycle lanes as well as the creation of 5000 extra bicycle parking spaces in the coming years.  (Or, again, is he more interested in indulging the anti-cyclist brigade moaning about the shared-space pavements?)

How far Johnson has helped cyclists in London is debatable.  Even the biggest Boris-hater, however, would have to admit that he has at least helped to bring cycling into the spotlight and does seem to be moving (or being pushed by cyclists) in the right direction.  For example, his review into dangerous junctions and roundabouts has actually materialised. 

Most positively though, is that with every trip I make to London I am amazed by the sheer increase in cyclists; and how many more there are than in Barcelona.

Less positively, Johnson has also been widely criticised for his bullish attitude towards cycling safety.  He once described a horribly dangerous London roundabout as “perfectly negotiable…if you keep your wits about you.”

Words that sound more like the macho postering of a lycra-clad cycle warrior than wise words of a sensible city Mayor.  Yet at least we can identify with him as a cyclist. 

Trias, for me, seems to be perversely opposed to his city becoming a cycling paradise (including all those leg muscle-building hills!) and stubbornly moving in his own old-fashioned direction.  Although I am happy to be proved wrong (and seriously, do let me know if I am mistaken about Trias here).

Whatever the case, both men need to take a leaf out of a certain mayor of a certain city not too far away from London or Barcelona’s book….

Paris Mayor

Starting afresh…

So after a few months of crazy work schedule and then lapsing into laziness and holiday mode I’m going to try and get this blog back on the bike lane.  I have a few things I want to write about, to begin with, my new bike:

New bike

It’s a secondhand Peugeot road bike purchased from Green Bikes in Gotico.  Guy was very friendly in there and was listening to Bad Brains, which I took as a good sign.  Much fun is currently being had getting used to the cleats.  If you see me wobbling about at the traffic lights on this thing do say hola.

So…no more Bicing…(well, at least I’ll be curbing my Bicing intake…)

Sabado por la manana, una caza de Bicing

This is a usual scene at my local Bicing station (222 - Carrer del Canó) on a Saturday morning and today was no different.

empty station

While walking to the next nearest station (223 - Carrer de Bonavista) I spy this.  Either the owner (or should I say user?) of this oh so nonchalantly left-unattended Bicing has money to burn, is very trusting, slightly selfish, or has life or death matters to discuss at that house therein.

Whatever, I admit the thought crossed my mind for 1 second…

Left bike

A good view indeed but a shame they are all on lockoff.

Lockoff

Another great site, no doubt on its way to stock up some lucky station.  A donde vas hombre?!  Nunca lo sabremos.

Van

Finally, the green screen of life, at station 374 - Passeig de Gracia.

Green screen of life

Bike weren’t bad neither.  Plus, what with my little detour, I ended up having a look in at Acampadabcn so all in all a nice morning’s commute.

Acampadabcn

Love bicing, love BCN, love life.