The TH Interview: Bicing, Barcelona's Bike Sharing System (Part 3: Clear Channel)


Image courtesy of Clear Channel

This week we interviewed Clear Channel Outdoor in Spain, the company behind the bike sharing system Bicing in Barcelona, whose success story you can read here. We previously interviewed Mayra Nieto from Barcelona’s City Council (Part 1) as well as some of its over 100.000 users (Part 2).

Clear Channel Outdoor is the world's largest outdoor advertising company, designing advertising displays for anywhere from airports and taxis to malls and including some of New York's Times Square displays. We learned that one of the most sustainable and innovative Product Service Systems like the Bicing, is the fruit of this company’s international street furniture division. Read what Jordi Sáez, regional director of Clear Channel in Catalonia, has to say about Bicing and sharing bikes.TH: How did you go about designing the Bicing/ Oslo Bysykkel bike sharing system and how was it made specific to Barcelona? What was the biggest challenge?

Jordi Sáez: Clear Channel’s SmartBike is the pioneer system in the world of sharing bicycles as an addition to urban public transport networks. In 1997 in Rennes, France, Clear Channel implemented for the first time its SmartBike system to offer a sustainable solution to the problems related to traffic in the city. Since then, thanks to its success and positive reception, some of the most important capitals and cities around the world, like Washington, Oslo, Stockholm, San Francisco or Barcelona, have integrated SmartBike into their transportation network, making it a distinctive element of the city.

The experience has been fundamental, like in the case of Barcelona, for the implementation of which we carefully followed the excellent example of Oslo. Based on the Norwegian system and its results, we developed a project made to measure for the characteristics of Barcelona. One of the big challenges, and which has been the success of SmartBike in Barcelona, called Bicing, was to create a simple system. It had to be easy for the user in every way: accessibility, handling, administration… it all would require very little intervention form the user, and of course, have a minimum impact on the city itself.

TH: Did you contact or visit other cities (Amsterdam, Paris, Lyon, Copehagen, etc.) that have set up a bike sharing system before Barcelona for advice?

JS: We are the reference for others, since we are the precursors of the system and our systems are present in the most important cities of the world. Of course, Clear Channel together with Barcelona’s city council visited other ‘SmartBike cities’ in order to extract the best of each one and that way successfully implement Bicing. After more than 100.000 subscribers in less than nine months, we figure that now Barcelona is the world’s reference for public transportation by bike.


Image courtesy of Clear Channel
TH: What three things would you change?

JS: SmartBike is a dynamic public transport system, adaptable to the necessities of every city. For example, the bicycles have been developed according to the advanced technologies into which we invest, and adapting to the comments and suggestions of our own users. Through their experience, it has been the users who have redesigned the bicycles and the system. We are currently in the sixth evolution of SmartBike in only ten years! We have been informed for example that our bike is the lightest on the market, only weighing 16 kilos. The weight is one of the main concerns of our users since its lightness allows better accessibility for everybody, less effort, less tiredness…

Recently in Barcelona, we experienced another proof of the system’s capacity to adapt well when new municipal regulations obliged us to modify the lights of the bicycles. The changes were done without the system having to stop functioning. Neither the users nor the system had to suffer.

TH: Would you recommend SmartBike for other cities? Which ones?

JS: We don’t believe it is recommendable, but rather that it is a duty to offer all citizens a public transport system by bicycle. There are plenty of advantages: it’s a viable system for any city, small or large; it’s easy to be used by anyone; it reduces the number of journeys made by car, it’s healthy, sustainable, economic…

We believe that Spain has to develop in this aspect and that its bigger cities should start thinking about this solution to overcome the problems related to traffic. The success shown in Barcelona and the fact that citizens ask for this kind of system, makes it secure for everyone involved.

TH: What are the limitations of SmartBike? How could it be made more cost-effective to city councils?

JS: The implication of SmartBike in any city should first undergo detailed planning. It has to be made sure that the system is balanced, that the distances between each station are appropriate and that they are strictly situated in places to fulfil its purpose as a public transport system. That way it maximises the efficiency of the service, and consequently allowing for the city council to save money.

TH: How do you see SmartBike being used in ten years?

JS: Barcelona’s city council has defined the Bicing as one of the biggest successes of 2007, and that’s what we believe it will be for the next few years. This spring, Barcelona will count 6.000 bicycles in its streets, doubling the initial project in record time. We think that using SmartBike will be as normal in the next ten years as taking the metro or the bus.

TH: What do you think will be the state of cycling in Barcelona in ten years?

JS: Five years ago, Barcelona only counted few people that used the bike as a daily means of transport, but today, the bicycle is considered to be another public transport option. In ten years, SmartBike will be providing the service and will have contributed to the promotion of sustainable transport. Barcelona will probably become the example and reference to other Spanish and European cities where the bicycle has turned into the citizens’ favourite option of public transport.

::Bicing ::Clear Channel

Tags: Barcelona | Bike Sharing