Barcelona 2002. Barcelona 2009. The city has indeed changed. Not only in new buildings like the AGBAR Tower or the Fòrum de les Cultures and its never-ending works, but also in its new means of public transport: first the tramway, which reappeared in the city in 2004 and then, since 2007, a great cycling initiative called BiCiNg.
What is BiCiNg? BiCiNg is a bike rental system which forms part of the public transport network in Barcelona. It doesn't work with the usual combined ticket for bus, train, subway and tram, though. To rent bikes, you have to pay an annual fee and then you are sent a BiCiNg card which you use to unblock the bikes in any station you find in Barcelona. This annual fee, it only costs 30 € this year, which makes a total of 2.5 € per month. It is cheap because Barcelona city hall partly subsidizes it through the new really expensive green parking area (it's like the usual blue parking area but more expensive).
How does BiCiNg work? BiCiNg is controlled by an electronic system and its mode of operating is easy. Once you are sent your BiCiNg card, you get to a station and there you find a standpoint where there is a screen -available languages Catalan and Spanish- and a magnetic card reader. You show your card to the reader and the systems assigns you one of the parked bikes. You take it, check it is OK and then go. If there are no bikes free at the station, you show the card to the reader and it will tell you the nearest stations. From the moment you get your bike, you can ride for half an hour at no extra cost. Every ten minutes you surpass this initial 30 min, is at the additional cost of 0,50 €. When your commute is over, you only need to park the bike at a station and check it is well parked. If the parking lot is full, you show your card to the reader and it will show you a station with free slots to park the bike at it will give you ten extra minutes to get there. This cycling system, however, is thought for city dwellers, but not for occasional visitors or tourists, as you can only pay per year and not for occasional rental. To cover this gap, there are bike rental shops in different areas of Barcelona, but I guess that at a rather different fee. Where to find a BiCiNg station? There are several BiCiNg stations in Barcelona, some areas being more populated with stations than others depending if it is an strategic area or not, or if the green parking area has arrived there yet (no green parking area means less BiCiNg stations). To know where these stations are, and if they have free slots or bike, as well as for administrative issues like inscribing of uninscribing, you can visit the website: http://www.bicing.com (only Catalan and Spanish). You can also make use of Barcelona's city map options to locate them. This system, of course is not free from its own problems, but it is very practical and it has incredibly increased the number of cyclist in the city: in 2002, there wasn't many people cycling, but now it is usual to find lots of people cycling. There is still much way to do, like writing a proper legislation for city cycling, building proper cycling lanes and, above all, teaching the whole population of Barcelona: cyclists (it’s true some people cycle out of snobishness in Barcelona or only because it is supposed to be “cool” now), pedestrians, motorcyclists and drivers to respect each others and behave. BiCiNg has indeed changed Barcelona and people’s habits in moving throughout the city but what it cannot do is telling us how to act. It is our responsibility to be civic and peacefully cohabitate with the rest of users. As a BiCiNg user, I’m glad this system exists. Of course I sometimes get mad or angry when there are no bikes at the stations or I cannot park or the bike is halfbroken or the people doesn’t behave. But still, I feel we are at the right track and this will lead more positive changes to the city.
Anna from BCN
Anna (Vienna), send me this article, which appeared in the New York Times, about BiCiNg. Zoom the image by clicking it and feel free to read it.