Riding a bike creates no CO2. It is cheap, and it is healthy. A local need for improved and increased transport options and a global desire to reduce CO2 outlet made Barcelona city council launch the bicycle project ”Bicing” in 2007, providing the city’s citizens with an environment friendly alternative to public transport. This case shows how Barcelona turned the share-bike system into an overwhelming success. Barcelona –like many other cities – suffers from massive CO2-outlets deriving from both private and public transport. City council is thus making an effort to make the city more environment-friendly and at the same time increasing public transport. Making people leave the car demands an alternative. An alternative, that is, which is easy to access. A simple system, easy to use and demands very little time of the user.
In Barcelona, this alternative is the share-biking system Bicing. The success of the project is significant. In March 2007, the first stations appeared in Barcelona. City council expected 40,000 users within the first year, but by May there were already 1,500 bicycles, 100 stations and 30,000 citizens with membership. After only 6 months, the project had 90,000 registered users. Today, there are more than 175,000 subscribing users annually and they drive 50, 000 trips on Bicing bikes on average every day.
Prior to the Bicing project, representatives from city council visited Lyon, France, which has experience with the Bicing share-bike system. Following a public competition and the worlds’ largest out door campaign, Clear Channel Outdoor won, as their system best matched Barcelona’s needs. Clear Channel Outdoor has developed the system SmartBikes – the first system in the world – in which share-bikes are additional public transport system. In 1997, in the French city of Rennes, they first implemented the SmartBikes to offer an environment-friendly alternative to traffic related problems in cities. ”Bicing doesn’t pretend to substitute the use of private bikes, but rather offers an additional public transport mode that should be used for everyday journeys.” Barcelona’s public transport and parking company B:SM manages the administration of Bicing. They annually pay 2.2 million € to Clear Channel Outdoor, that deal with all logistics, installations, maintenance, employment of staff etc. Revenue from parking regulations in the inner city and user payment finances the project.
The system works such that everybody with an address in Catalonia can buy a year’s membership of Bicing for 30 €. This allows you to use one of the 6,000 bicycles spread all over town placed in 400 specially made Bicing-stations, where you can pick up and deliver a bike. The stations are spread all over Barcelona inner city with a distance of 300-400 m between them – most of which are close to another type of public transport, allowing people to combine more transportation. The bike can be occupied two hours at a time a day – the first 30 minutes are free of charge. After this it costs 0.50 € for every half hour. A personal ID-card (with the bikes id-number) enables the Bicing-manager to always know who has last rode the bike, and when.
SmartBikes weigh merely 16.5 kg and are equipped with three gears, and lights head and back. They are made of stainless steel and aluminium and can be adjusted to fit both young and grown ups. Large and ergonomic handlebars make it easy to steer the bike. In general, Barcelona is dealing with bike theft and vandalism, but in this regard, Bicing has helped civilians in the city. The system appears to have given citizens the opportunity to use bikes for transportation to places and at times in which, they would usually leave their own bike at home. In addition, Bicing provides the opportunity to bike one way to work, when the sun is shining and take the metro back at night, when it is raining. Hence it is not only citizens who do not own a bike of their own that are taking advantage of Bicing, but equally those who have their own bike.
Several city areas have applied for an extension of the Bicing-system to their particular part of town. At present, a study is investigating how this can occur in future. The present challenges for Bicing are to keep up with demand, ensuring that there are enough bikes around for every one who wishes to choose a healthy and environment-friendly alternative to common public transport.