To those of you who live in Barcelona, you can’t avoid being aware of the Bicing phenomenon, unless you’ve been living with your head ostrich style in Barceloneta beach. To those of you unfamiliar with this fair city, or perhaps those who have just passed through, you probably have no clue what I’m talking about. Bicing is a bike sharing service provided by the city council, whose natty name comes from the Catalan (& Spanish) word for bicycle – bicicleta; and is pronounced like bee-seeng to explain the pun in the title if you read it as bicking…..Anyway, you sign up to the service for a year, and receive a card which you can swipe at any bicing station with available bikes, collect a bike & pedal off to your destination, and deposit said bike in another station with available slots.
The key word there is available. Now I love my bicing, I cycle to work on it, it’s much better value than the metro, good for the environment, and is the only exercise I get. However the cost-benefit ratio has been tipping lately in favour of the metro, simply due to to not having any bloody bikes available at the end of the day when I am on my way home. As I said, bicing is cheaper, at a mere snip of the cost of a metro pass – bicing currently costs around 45 euros for a yearly subscription.
However, I am starting to lose my patience when I come out of work after a long & crappy day to find there are no available bicing within a 10 mile radius. And should I be lucky enough to stumble across one then of course there are no available slots to park said bicing any near my flat. Perhaps it was always like this, it was just during August when all self-respecting Barcelonins disappeared on holiday I got used to always being able to cycle home. Or perhaps there is a bici-fairy who, rather like the tooth-fairy, takes away the shiny bikes from under your nose & leaves you with a huge sense of disappointment at what she leaves behind; in this case not even the 20p I used to get as a child!
Even more irritating is walking up to a bicing station & seeing that bikes are there – great news! But as you get closer, you realise that the little red light is blinking at you like a gormless puppy who has just shat in your shoe (which means you can’t collect the bikes). Or even more irritating still is when you can see several bikes, all ready go, then just as you cross the road to collect your prize suddenly out of nowhere another 5 people arrive in front of you & steal all the bikes ninja-like from under your very nose!
If you do get to grab a bicing, the next challenge is actually getting to where you want to go…..if you can manage to avoid every conceivable obstacle which may cross or block your path. Such obstacles are many and varied – from pigeons, dogs, pedestrians, mopeds, cars, street cleaners, other cyclists, children, delivery trucks and many more besides. Also a word of caution to bici-clists; if the floor is wet from a rain shower, or more likely, street cleaners, take care to brake gently to avoid skidding and falling off – I have fallen foul of that a couple of times now!
My friend shared this link with me – a cyclist in New York struggling with obstacles – I can sympathise with him; check it out! http://www.minds.com/blog/view/231844919164014592
But despite all the negatives, Bicing still remains my chariot of choice when I can get one; and can be quite enjoyable if you get a breezy sunny day and a clear route.
But what are the options when there aren’t any bicing, or you’re not a resident here? The Metro would be the next obvious, depending where you are & where you need to get to; and still good value at less than 10 euros for a T10 ticket with 10 journeys you can also share with a friend if you have one. These T10 tickets can also be used on the bus network, although bizarrely you can’t buy the tickets on the buses even though you can use a ticket you already have. I have yet to figure out the out the complex labyrinth of bus routes, stops & timetables but this can be a more scenic way of getting around than disappearing underground, and also helps avoid the horrors of the accordion players who plague the green line metro. Then there are always plenty of taxis around the city; just flag down a taxi with a green light & away you go – although obviously much more expensive than public transport.
I do have to say the transport system in Barcelona really is very good value and the network is extensive; you really are spoilt for choice – a far cry from the village in Lancashire where I grew up; the buses were one an hour into town, or one every 2 hours on Sundays. It is fair to say that Barcelona is somewhat larger & more exciting in many more ways than that little village, but still.
The one thing to bear in mind, no matter what form of travel you choose, it is impossible to rush in Barcelona. If you are late for a train or flight, the whole city will conspire against you to make you even more late; strolling at snail like pace in front of you; so do leave plenty of time for your journey. If you are simply meeting friends then don’t worry – they will inevitably arrive late as well, problem solved!