While the United States continues to dither with small-scale programs in Washington DC, San Francisco, New York and Denver (Denver has 50 bikes, DC has a program & SF says they’ll have a pilot program), Europe has nailed down the shared-bike program cold. France’s Vélib, with 20,000 bikes, may be the world’s largest initiative, but Barcelona’s Bicing is touted as one of the most successful.
The underpinnings of the program have less to do with environmental sustainability and more to do with the flow of people. “The Bicing project is a consequence of the mobility policy of the city–its effects on traffic, and as also as sustainable element inside of the mobility of the city,” Ramon Ferreiro, an official with Bicing, says. Bicing is Barcelona’s way to pacify traffic, prioritize walkers and bicyclists. Haritz Ferrando of the Bicycle Club of Catalonia adds that the density-factor is the number one criteria for success. People want to grab a bike for short trips and local errands he explains.
Barcelonans pay a yearly fee of 30 Euros to receive a personalized and magnetized smart card, which allows them to remove a bike from a mechanized dock. The first half-hour is free and each additional 30 minutes are 30 cents. Credit card information is stored online and members can return bikes at lock stations all over the city.
When the Barcelona first instituted the program in 2006 with 1,500 bikes and 100 different docking points, the program was a success but fueled a rash of complaints. Since then, the cigty has created 80 miles of new bike lanes, enlarged sidewalks and bus lanes and lowered speed limits throughout the city. In the inner areas, the speed is 18 miles per hour and on basic roads leading into the city, the maximum speed is 31 miles per hour.
Today, the landscape of the city is entirely different from what it was two years ago. More than 6,000 bicycles are on the streets, with 375 docking stations throughout the city.
In this video, we talk to Bicycle Club of Catalonia’s Ferrando and Bicing spokesman Ferreiro as well as riders about how it works and how the city has changed.