On a brief stop-over in Barcelona on my trip to Spain last week I got a look at the popular Bicing bike sharing system that was introduced in 2007 with 1,500 bikes and now fields 6,000 at 420 stations.
Naturally, I was dying to work off my tapas consumption by contributing personally to the average of 47,200 uses per day made by bike share, but unlike my recent experiences with Barclays Cycle Hire in London and Capital Bike Share in Washington DC, where a credit card enables tourists to borrow bikes, Barcelona’s scheme is a public transportation amenity for citizens only.
Still, it was fun to admire from the sidelines the cheerful red styling (and skirt guards!) of the bikes, which are smaller and appear more sporty and maneuverable than some of their weightier cousins in other parts of the world, and the super-quick checkout. At one station, I watched a user wave his membership card in front of the kiosk, disengage a bike from the horizontal docking bar and hit the streets in less than a minute. As with many bike share systems, the first 30 minutes are free to encourage turnover in this densely populated city, with charges accruing thereafter. On a sunny Sunday, wide boulevards, plazas and bike lanes were alive with cyclists, including Bicing users. (A study published last summer in the British Medical Journal revealed a positive impact on public health through bike sharing in Barcelona.)