At the end of March, the city of Barcelona instituted a new shared transit system to facilitate access and efficiency amongst the existing network of public transportation. Bicing deployed 200 hundred sharable bicycles to 14 bike stations around the city, and activated an interactive website that allows users to track the availability of bikes in real-time, as well as to look up the proximity of stations from wherever they are.
Bicing functions much like a car-sharing service, wherein the users join as members on a weekly or annual subscription for a small fee. The membership card provides access for 2-hour consecutive trips, with the first 30 minutes being free, and each succeeding half hour charged at 30 eurocents.
The idea, according to the city council, is to use Bicing in conjunction with other transit systems to make it easier and quicker to get around the city. Riders can also use it on its own for short trips and errands. They apparently hope to have 100 stations and 3000 bikes in Barcelona by the end of this year.
Thanks for this post. Here's another reason that Europeans use half the per capita energy that Americans do.
Germany has a similar program of public bikes. Theirs is operated by the national rail system, Deutsche Bahn, but is administered somewhat differently from Barcelona's.
I see a definite symbiosis between bicycle use and effective mass transit, where people can travel a large distance through an urban area by train, with the first and last miles, so to speak, covered by bike. European urban planners seem to understand this, and I hope more American planners take heed. In many European countries I've visited, bikes are welcomed, or at least tolerated, on commuter trains and subways. But it's still a hassle getting your bike up and down stairs to the platform (thus the popularity of small folding bikes). A system like Barcelona's allows people to skip the inconvenience of lugging their bikes onto the train.
Portland, Oregon's light rail system also has in-car racks for bikes, so it's quite easy to travel around the city using the bike/train combination. This is, in my opinion, a significant factor feeding Portland's vibrant bike culture.
While the federal government in the U.S. remains comatose and committed to the automobile, more and more American cities are nonetheless investing in light rail systems. They will amplify their efforts to move away from car dependency if they design the systems to be bike-friendly.
A friend, Bruce Hammond, traveled in Europe during 1995, to study cities that had effectively introduced light rail, busses and bicycles. He found that it wasn't enough to provide alternatives to the automobile. It was also necessary to make automobiles less convenient or more expensive relative to alternatives. That is, don't add a bike lane - take away a car lane and convert it to a bike lane. Don't just bring light rail into the downtown - also raise parking fees to a very high level. Bruce found that this kind of thinking seemed to be the difference between successful and unsuccessful alternative transit efforts.
Another friend, Mia Birk, made a similar European trip in 1996, and reached similar conclusions. I believe that she played a key role in establishing Portland's great bicycle routes.
Excellent point. The other policy European countries have pursued is high gasoline taxes to discourage car use and help fund mass transit.
It's so simple it makes wonder why someone didn't think of it sooner. I'd like to think the concept would go over well in the US, but I guess it depends on the city. It definitely wouldn't fly in Houston, but someplace like Boston might easily adopt it.
In only one month the Bicing Barcelona have more 5000 members.
In Barcelona city centre you can't park the car more 2 hours (except if you a neighbour) on the street and also you have pay for this time (2,80 €/ hour). This measure has reduced 14 % of car traffic in city centre. The Bicing system is finance with the benefits of car parks on the street in the city centre.
However, in Barcelona and Catalonia, a lot of work still remains to make to achieve a sustainable and safe mobility. The greatest problem that we have now is the obsolete train net that there is in Catalonia.
PD: Sorry for my bad English.
This has existed for a while (2 years maybe?) in Lyon, France. It's called Velo'V and is a very big success. I think they have 3000 bikes and plan for 4000 in 2007. And a project is ongoing in Paris I think, I've heard of it some time ago.
However, it's only emerging in some cities. Europeans are mostly good old polluters, and I'm one of them, since I live in a place where there's no bus and I have to drive 14km of hills to go to work.
In the area where I work, there's a possibility to try an electric bike. I intend to try and check whether I could go 14km with such a bike, supposedly "flattening the hills". But I'm not sure how often I'd do that then, and given the price of such a bike (1000 euros), I'd probably be better off not buying it. Basically, cars still have a bright future everywhere here.
And just to disagree with another comment: I'm not sure the high level of taxes on gasoline is meant to discourage pollution. Maybe in some countries, but I don't think it's the case in France. It's just a juicy business...