Barcelona’s City Bicycle Program – Nice Bicing

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Barcelona features–like Paris’ oh so grey Vélib or London’s bright yellow OYBike–a city-sponsored rent-a-bicycle-easily program called Bicing. The small-wheeled red bicycles (photo to right) can be remarked easily, being ridden by mostly Barcelona citizens on grey days and sunny days alike. Started in March 2007, the Bicing program is notable for one thing: it is thought to be only for the Barcelona residents! Every local person (e.g. taxi drivers and pedestrians) to whom I spoke said that these bicycles could only be rented out by the locals. This is in contradiction to the brochure which clearly is written in English (as well as Catalan and Castillan, of course) and states that the bike can be rented out for all your touristic visits. Moreover, the majority of the bike stations are located at the highly touristic centres. Even the Bicing website, which is only in Catalan and Castillan, talks about the usage for tourism purposes.

For further reading on Barcelona’s Bicing, please go here: Treehugger or BlastBlog.

The Barcelona program is an overriding success if you listen to the citizens. That said, with only 1500 bikes (100 stations), there must be some challenges in terms of availability, etc. Paris’ Velib now boasts around 20,000 bicycles. London’s program, begun in August 2004, is largely focused on the western region of London (I can’t find how many) bikes there are in the OYBike program). Other cities that feature a similar bicycle program include Copenhagen (2000 bikes), Stockholm CityBike (with the same bikes as Bicing, but in blue), Lyon Velo’V (1500) and in Germany, for those traveling one-way along the Ruhr Valley, in the revier rad network, there is the Hase low-rider bicycle.

Certainly, with all these programs cropping up in Europe, you would hope the same eco-friendly initiatives might take root in certain cities in the States. In Asia, in certain cities, it might be like bringing coals to Newcastle… although with the increase in motorcycles (Hanoi, etc.) and cars, keeping the bicycle tradition wouldn’t hurt. Anyone know of any cities in the US considering or doing a similar program?

4 Comments, RSS

  1. Anonymous

    Yes, NYC and SFO are thinking about it and Washington DC is runnig a pilot.
    Bicing really is only for residents, though. You’ll need to provide your residence number (DNI or NIE) to subscribe to the service. The idea is not to force commercial bike rental agencies out of business. Bicing actually helps those agencies, as tourist see more bikes on the street and want to rent bikes themselves.

  2. Minter

    Thx Anonymous for the heads up.

    Re: Bicing, I heard about that limitation for the yearly pass, but the trilingual literature clearly points to the service being available to the tourists. And I understand the commercial situation, but I would maintain that even without that sort of restriction (as in Paris), ultimately, the whole bike industry will benefit (including making the car drivers being more bike-conscious). In Paris, I’m sure that the bike rental companies have suffered short term. But, in the long term, bike rental companies will have to provide a value added service and the whole “category” will improve as a result.

  3. Anonymous

    Hi, good article. Do you know if the situation is still the same? I’m a tourist in Barcelona too and would like to use these bikes.


  4. Minter

    I’m afraid I don’t have an updated answer. What I did hear is that anyone CAN use it… but I never figured out the method of payment… Buena suerte.

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