Barcelona’s Bike Hire Scheme

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I just read a press release about a scheme in London to introduce bike hire parks at 300m intervals around the city, hot on the heels of Paris, which recently unveiled 10,000 bikes at 750 points around the capital to unanimous success. The aim is to have one in ten trips in London made by bike, which will tie in with a Legible London signage system to encourage people to walk – apparently fifty per cent of tube journeys in London are quicker by foot.

Barcelona has started something similar, and judging from the amount of red and white stork-like bikes flitting about, it seems to have proved just as popular. In fact, it’s so successful that they need to build more bike parks in the popular spots, as finding a parking slot to return your bike can be tricky. Another teething problem is in the electronic parking slots themselves, some of which aren’t locking the bikes properly. Still, I’m sure these niggles will be sorted out, and it’s certainly encouraging to see it being used so wholeheartedly and effectively.

In France, the bikes cost about a Euro an hour. In Barcelona, the bikes are free for the first 30 minutes – ample time to get around the city. You then have a twenty minute period before being able to pick up another bike – easily taken up by shopping, or a stroll down the Ramblas. If you go over your 30 minute allocation, there’s a small fee that’s knocked off your credit card. It would be perfect for tourists, who could mix and match their forrays around the city, but for the fact that you also need to sign up to the scheme – around 20-30 Euros a year.

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Getting a bike is simple. Swipe your card, which releases one of the bikes from the pound.

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Grab your wheels and go for a spin. At the end of the ride, drop it back in its plug, which locks it in place, at any of the bike parks dotted about.

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The bikes are sturdy, funky, practical little things, with an adjustable saddle, mudguards, tough Schwalbe Marathon Plus tyres and a simple three speed hub gear. There are LED lights for the night too, though they didn’t all seem to be working.

Barcelona is surprisingly bike friendly, with plenty of bikes lanes and some great routes around the harbour and along the beachfront for a sunset amble.

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7 Responses to “Barcelona’s Bike Hire Scheme”


  1. 1 OnAnInbred March 13, 2008 at 11:39 pm

    The Barcalona scheme looks interesting, although I really wonder if it would work with tourists with such a bit sign up cost. The only one I’ve experience of was in Vienna a couple of years ago. The instructions were in German only, so I couldn’t work out how to use it!

    They are introducing the French system to Dublin – paid for by the same company (JCDecaux). Much as I hate the commercialisation of bike use, I think they only seem to work when there is a private company behind them with a strong incentive to make it work.

    I think an important element too of the successful Parisian scheme is the sheer number of bikes put in place – you have to use the critical mass concept and really flood the place with bikes to really encourage non-cyclists to make use of it.

    From what I can see from your pics, the Barcalona bikes don’t seem to have any baskets? I would have thought a good solid front basket or hard case pannier would be pretty important for shoppers.

  2. 2 otbiking March 16, 2008 at 12:57 am

    Yes, it’s not designed with tourists in mind, unfortunately. (I think that’s in part due to pressure from local bike rental companies.) Plus,there’s no multi language info on the website, and you need to get hold of the swipe card too – we borrowed a couple of cards from friends. But it’s certainly popular with locals – whether they’re out for a weekend cruise, shopping, or heading into town for the evening (plenty of semi-drunk revelers wobbling home at night). There’s no basket as such, but there’s a kind of cage at the front where you can put your shopping bag. Apparently, there was an initial lull when it was set up, then it became unexpectedly popular – hence the need to install more parking spots in the popular areas.

  3. 3 Pau May 26, 2008 at 11:30 pm

    I guess every system could be improved, but I think Barcelona’s bicing is great, and it makes a huge difference on how we move in the city. I’d rather spend 30 mintues on a bike than 10 in the metro. I’m a total supporter.

    I’ve tryed the Paris one, and I think it suffers form the same problems than Barcelona’s. I’ve tryed Lyon’s one, and I think it is marvelous. There is an station every two blocks, bikes and spots are always ready. The good thing about these two cities systems is that… I was able to use them! They are open to anyone (with a credit card) which is excellent for visitors. I think the reason why Barcelona does not have such system is for preassure of local bike hiring businesses. whatever.

    Anyway, as mentioned, one of the problems of bicing is to find bikes and spots. I set up a system to help locating bicings and spots via SMS (from your cell phone). Details can be found here: http://www.smsbicing.com
    It basically consists in sending an SMS to the short number 5110, wiht the text “go bcn” and the address or station number. And it works fine! It is not a profitable system, so the sendor has to pay for the SMS back too (about 30 cents total).

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  1. 1 Nau: The Thought Kitchen Trackback on June 27, 2008 at 11:18 pm

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