Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Introduction to Barcelona

This, the first of several posts on cycling in Barcelona, is an introduction to the state of cycling in this beautiful city. At first glance arriving in the old city centre of Barcelona one would think that cycling would be a popular option. The city's dense and very well scaled streets seems suited for cycling. However, cyclists have only a 2% mode share in the Catalonia capital. On the flip side transit users and pedestrians claim a nearly 75% mode share (a number that is difficult to break down further as so many trips involve both walking and transit use). The narrow streets of the old city are good for cycling, but ideal for pedestrians and are jammed packed with people walking at all hours of the day and night.
Typical road in Barcelona's old centre.

Barcelona began creating cycling facilities circa 1992 in preparation for the '92 Olympic Games. These were a series of bike lanes created on wide sidewalks in the modern extensions of Barcelona. These bike lanes built on pedestrian walkways caused a lot of problems and their legacy is still being felt today.

On sidewalk cycling lane created circa 1992.
Since 1992 Barcelona has sought to move forward with better cycling facilities. Improvements and new facilities have been designed and constructed. The city appears to have put effort into improving connections to old facilities. New innovative, safer and more friendly facilities have been created. One of the most next and most important steps moving forward will be providing more secure lock-up facilities for cyclists.

Four years ago Barcelona saw a dramatic increase in cycling as cyclists mode share double with the introduction of the Bicing, Barcelona's bike share program. However, this success has also come at a cost as complaints about cyclists to the City's Ombudsperson outnumber all others. Often those who use the Bicing bikes are relatively inexperienced cyclists and it is these inexperienced cyclists that make up nearly half of all cyclists in the city.
Bicing station- Part of Barcelona's bike share program
Cycling advocates in Barcelona have placed great hopes on the creation of the new 30 km zones that have been created throughout the region. The impact of the 30 km zones has been extensively researched and the results point to another great leap forward for cyclists in Barcelona. In fact the 30 km zones have been so successful that the Spanish transportation minister is considering new legislation that will see that standard speed limit within all urban areas reduced to 30 km. This means that the urban speed limit will be 30 km default and cities will have to specifically designated which streets they want to have the speed limit greater than 30 km.

It does not take much investigation to see that cycling culture in Barcelona is building. The city is motivated and businesses seem willing to support this movement. A city that is mostly flat with pleasant weather nearly all year-round, cycling should be easily integrated into the walking and transit culture.