Friday, December 7, 2012

The new BIG bicycle infrastructure in Barcelona

The current Mayor of Barcelona, Xavier Trias from (now pro-independence) CiU federation, won the elections in 2011 after a period of more than 30 years of (unionist) PSC government, generally in coalition with other left parties (pro-independence ERC and eco-unionist ICV). CiU recently won the Catalan National elections. CiU is a mixture of liberals, social and Cristian democrats and conservative people, although the voters of CiU define themselves according to last polls as centre-left pro-Catalonia independence people. In general, CiU supports car and motorbike culture.

Well, the question is that CiU has been analizing the bike situation all this time. And now it's starting to make infrastructure. Last week the City Council presented its first BIG actions in the 3rd most bike friendly city of the World according to the Copenhaguenize Index.

The first BIG action was to paint bicycle pictograms in Zone 30 areas (original in Catalan, Google Translate):

It's not a joke. I saw them a couple of days before the official statement.

Second, 3 new bike paths, with a astonishing width of 50 cm for each direction (original in Catalan, Google Translate), at least in the Ramon Turró bidirectional lane:


Currently in works. My Brompton Bag has a width of 44 cm; its handlebar is wider, and Brompton handlebar is narrow in comparison to standard bikes.

Indeed, CiU administration shows to ignore the bicycle reality of the city. For example, it said:

The third lane will be implemented in Ramon Turró Street. It will connect the bike lanes of Àlaba Street and Wellington Street.

Well, Ramon Turró Street used to have a bike lane several years ago. Now the City Council is completing it so that it reaches Wellington Street, where there wasn't any bike lane at any time (although the City Council is claiming the opposite).

Moving parked cars and painting white lines on the floor is easy and fast. But it's not a proper bike infrastructure policy for the 6th most populous metropolitan area of the European Union with a GDP per capita which is not so different from the Danish one. Barcelona and Catalan citizens deserve much more. We have a low cost infrastructure with no decent quality bike paths/lanes.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Maps of Barcelona bicycle traffic flow

During May 2012 the first European Cycling Challenge was celebrated through Endomondo platform: In this challenge, cities around Europe were competing to see which one was able to cycle more miles during May 2012. The challenge was launched by the city of Bologna and was partly co-financed by the CIVITAS Mimosa.

In this first edition only 7 cities took part in it, with a final ranking of Tallinn (Estonia), Bulåggna (Bologna) (Italy), Barcelona (Catalonia), Reading (UK), Iași (Romania), San Lâzer (San Lazzaro di Savena) (Italy) and Saronikos (Greece). So Barcelona, with nearly 300 participants and 16,000 km ridden, was in the third position.

The main interest was to record the common routes by commuters, which could help to design better cyclist infraestructures. Finally, last week were published the data of the routes for Barcelona in Google Fusion.

As Google Fusion is a limited GIS platform, and I'm a geologist with GIS skills, I performed my GIS analysis with some powerfull software (mainly ArcGIS). Here are the results.

The maps

All maps represent the same data, but representation is important when you are working with big data (in this case, 750,000 points). I only worked with data of the municipality of Barcelona (1,6 million), about 500,000-600,000 points.

The first map is a linear color representation of maximum and minimum density:

Malla bici Barcelona EU Cycling 2012 (lineal mínim-màxim)

But normally this is affected by extreme values, so it's better to apply colors using standard deviations to obtain a balanced result. First, in black and white:

Malla bici Barcelona EU Cycling 2012 (blanc i negre)

Second, in color:

Malla bici Barcelona EU Cycling 2012 (Desviacions estàndards)

And here a Histogram equalize:

Malla bici Barcelona EU Cycling 2012 (Equalització Histograma)

Google Earth

You can see all these maps in Google Earth (kmz download), in order to recognize streets and the city orography:

Malla bici Barcelona EU Cycling 2012 (Google Earth 2)

Malla bici Barcelona EU Cycling 2012 (Google Earth)

Maps are quite similar to the official city council map of bicycle traffic flow, but with notable differences.


Representativity of the data could be questioned (you need a smartphone, you have to sign in in Endomondo, there were only 300 participants, etc.) but my 7 years of daily cycling experience says to me that maps are quite good.

Bicycle users concentrate in the old Pla de Barcelona (Barcelona plain), outside the old city and now ocuppied by the districts of Eixample (265,000 inhabitants), Gràcia (125,000) and Sant Martí (225,000). The main route is Diagonal Avenue between the squares of Francesc Macià and Glòries Catalanes (Eixample-Gràcia border). The second cyclist center is arround Espanya Square, with Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes and Paral·lel Avenue. That's a bit surprising, but it connects the Zona Franca industrial area (with not very much public transportation) and l'Hospitalet de Llobregat, the second largest Catalan city which forms, indeed, an urban continuum with Barcelona city on the left of the maps. Finally, the streets of Consell de Cent and Diputació are the complementary routes to cross the Eixample district.

Other important routes are also the beach front, the Meridiana avenue (which connects to the district/town of Sant Andreu), and in, and around, the old city: Rambles, Via Laietana and Ronda Sant Pere.

It would be very interesting if the city council extended this methology in the future, complemented with the traditional bicycle counters in main streets. It provides a very valuable information.

Have a nice Barcelona. And remember, don't buy any Mexican hat here as a souvenir. We are Catalans, not Mexicans ;-)

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Barcelona bicycle numbers

In the website of the Barcelona City Council for mobility you can find  the full report of Barcelona basic data of mobility for 2010 (pdf, in Catalan). There is also a brief report for 2011, but the last complete one is for 2010. The report contains very interesting bicycle data.

2009 2010 09/10 (%)
Bicycle transport share 2,07% 1,99% -3,9
Bicycle trips 102.824 106.520 3,6
Bike lanes/path km 146,8 159 8,3
% of streets with bicycle lanes/paths -- 12,10% --
Bicycles using the bike lanes/paths -- 42,10% --
Bicycle parking 20.402 21.387 4,8
Registered users of "Bicing" 182.062 117.523 -35,4
Daily average users of "Bicing" 33.415 34.585 3,5
Number of "Bicing" trips 10.769.256 11.147.000 3,5
Public cost by "Bicing" trip (EUR) 1.3 1.26 --
Public cost by bus/metro trip  (EUR) -- 1.24 --
"Bicing" share in total bicycle use -- 28,70% --
Bicycle accidents 513 414 -19,3

The report includes an interesting map of bicycle traffic density in Barcelona.

Intensitat de trànsit de bici a Barcelona (any 2010)

Bicycle in Barcelona: A (ridiculous) share of 2%

As I mentioned in a previous post, Barcelona is in third position in the Copenhagenize Index (?). The question is if a city with a 2% of share could be in that position, taking into account that many European cities have much higher numbers:  +30% in Ferrara (Italy), +30% in most Dutch / Danish cities and +40% in Amsterdam and Copenhagen.

To get an idea of what represents a 2% in Barcelona itself, this is more or less the same people who use a taxi (2.8%), a van / truck (2.7%), people who accompany someone else in a car (2.5%), who use the Catalan Railway Company (1.9%), or the discretionary bus (1.7%). In contrast, 11.9% use the bus, 14.8% the metro, 6.2% the motorcycle, 9.5% the car, and 45.5% go on foot. Bicycle is very far from the figures of that second group, which includes the main transportation means used by people.

12.1% of city streets with bike lanes

Roughly only 1 of every 10 streets in Barcelona has a bike path/lane (I'm very generous calling them "path/lane"). The report of the Barcelona City Council gives another figure, but I’m not sure I understand it really. It says that 28% of the total road network is for bicycles. I guess that includes 30 km/h areas, areas in which it has not been proven at all that there has been an increase in the use of the bike. Indeed, last information about 30 km/h areas is that there has been an increase of accidents.

Bicycle stands, considerable number but insufficient

In Barcelona city you can be sure about at least one thing: if you don’t secure professionally your bike, it will be stolen in just a few hours. So 21,000 bicycle stands is a very low number in a city of 1.5 million people. And if you want to increase the use of the bike, you need MANY MORE bicyle stands.

Bike lanes that are not used 

It is very worrying that only 42% of the bicycles uses bike lanes. This means that 58% use mainly the sidewalk. You can consider that Barcelona is a Mediterranean city; ok. The result is that in Barcelona there is a public debate about bicycles in sidewalks, with most people claiming to put an end to bicycle use (bicycle is good to do exercise in the wekeends, you know). This true conflict was generated by the incorrect City Council lanes design.

My opinion about the reasons why people do not use the bike lanes are basically two:

- Lack of control of the discipline of bicycle users.

- A completely inadequate design of many of the city's bike lanes.

Is Bicing (Barcelona’s bike share program) killing bicycle use?

We have a problem with Bicing. Bicing lost 35% of its subscribers between 2009 and 2010. That means 2 million EUR less, an amount that has to be paid by the City Council instead. Considering the number of Bicing trips, that means that the City Council pays 1.26 EUR for every Bicing trip. You must consider that the City Council pays 1.24 EUR for every metro/bus trip. In terms of users, Bicing is more expensive for the City Council that bus or metro services! And Bicing is, indeed, overwhelmed. It’s not a question of more users paying and using the service.

In addition, while the City Council is investing 14 million euros each year in the Bicing service, it only invests 1 million/year in bicycle lanes/paths. The Bicing share in total bicycle use in the city is only 28%. I think it has to be more proportional: the investment in bicycle lanes/paths benefits all bicycle users, whereas investment in Bicing benefits only a minor part.

To increase bicycle use you need to invest in infrastructure. If your investment in bicyvle promoting goes only to Bicing, you are avoiding an increase of general bicycle use.

Have a nice Barcelona. And remember, don't buy any Mexican hat here as a souvenir. We are Catalans, not Mexicans ;-)

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Comparing Barcelona and Copenhaguen

In October 2009 I went to visit D. in Copenhaguen for 10 days. For a couple of Catalan ciclysts, it was completely astonishing. One of the most remarkable things for us was the huge amount of parked bikes on the streets, in contrast to what you can see in Barcelona. 

Here the Copenhaguen situation:

(All these bikes, not secured, would be stolen in a few hours in Barcelona. That's the reason why in Barcelona there are literally thousands of Brompton bicycles)

And here the "same" situation in Gràcia district (town) in Barcelona city:

This shows that the main private transportation mean is the bicycle in Copenhaguen and the motorbike in Barcelona. Gràcia is, probably, the most extreme case in the city: frequently it is difficult to use sidewalks due to the huge amount of motorbikes. Indeed, Barcelona is one of the European cities with more motorbikes. I think I read somewhere that we are in second place after Roma, but I'm not sure (Barcelona is the 6th most populous urban area in the EU). Bicycle, on the other hand, accounts for only 2% of the transportation share in the city.

The current city council plans to promote electric motorbikes. Neither the electric bicycle nor the bicycle. Motorbikes. Things like these make me think that the third position of Barcelona in the Copenhaguenize Index is simply wrong (bad criteria). I'll try to show it in this blog in the future with more examples.

Have a nice Barcelona. And remember, don't buy any Mexican hat here as a souvenir. We are Catalans, not Mexicans ;-)

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Introducing the blog

My name is Marc. I'm a Catalan from Barcelona and I ride a Brompton bicycle every day (more or less) since 2006. That's me:

Brompton and the Marc (II)

I was blogging in Catalan about the bicycle in the city in my personal blog. Now it's time to (try to) blogging in English to reach a broader audience.

In Barcelona, about the bicycle, there is a big problem between reality an the political propaganda from the City Council. I'll try to show my daily experience riding in Barcelona, putting it in context with some other European cities.

My personal references about the urban bicycle are, obviously, Denmark and The Netherlands. I usually read blogs as Copenhaguenize, Amsterdamize, A view from the cycle path and others.