07 August 2008

Barcelona and 'bicing'

I'm just back from two hot weeks in Barcelona - and no, I didn't do any cycling while I was there. No need, for a start - excellent public transport, mostly air-conditioned. And no opportunity. But I did look at people cycling and found that Barceloneses do cycle, a lot. In common with much of the continent, they do it without the parafernalia we take to in the UK - they do it in their swimwear and flipflops. Also, they tend to prefer the pavement to the roads, except where there are dedicated bike lanes.

Now, much is being said these days about clever bike rental schemes in cities. I've seen such things in Paris and Stockholm, but can I say that in Barcelona the bikes rented by bicing.com were trully everywhere, ridden by all sorts of people. The design of these bikes is not fancy, space-age grey steel stuff, but it does the job very well - and you know, I actually like the red n' white combination. The photo shows a bloke booking a bike while talking on the phone. The website (in Spanish and Catalan) is very good - you can for instance check live bike availability and stuff. Note that, as they explain, their target market is not the tourists, but the locals - you have to join and pay a monthly fee, which includes some 'free' time, after which you start paying as you go. It aims to complement the public transport system - or, as they put it, it is part of the system!

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