Those that frequently use Barcelona’s public bike sharing Bicing should get their own bike, says Catalonia’s current government. To enforce this idea and with the current crisis as an excuse, the city’s mobility council plans to raise Bicing’s yearly fee by 116% next year, allowing users unlimited service. Since march 2007, Bicing managed to turn many Barcelonians into everyday cyclists and changed the city for the better. Now, its users are worried about what will happen to it if it becomes too expensive to use.
Never before (since the arrival of the car) have there been so many cyclists in Barcelona. However, raising its annual fee from 45€ to 97,5€ might put many of the current 150.000 Bicing members off and destroy a system which "serves some 60.000 daily uses", according to La Vanguardia.
The city council wants to reduce the cost of Bicing and hence argues that if you use the system a lot, you should buy your own bicycle. If you plan on using the service less than 50 times a year, you can get a basic membership for 42€, which is still well above the current fee.
In an interview with Pablo León, Joan Vals from the Catalan Bicycle Club (BACC) says that this is a bit like having to get a private car if you use the bus or taxis too often. Apart from BACC, many other organisations and unions reject the fee increase and are worried that Bicing, and many other cyclists with it, will vanish. The new prices would make Bicing the most expensive public bike sharing service in Europe.
Like León explains in El País, there are many other ways to decrease the administration’s cost for public transport (think congestion charge, car parking fees, ad space, etc.), and it seems that paralysing a perfectly well functioning bike sharing system that inspired many other cities to get their own, is not the correct one. In his article León further explains where this is all coming from.
Investments into the Barcelona transport budget are being cut by 45% until 2020. The yearly 18 million euros of maintenance necessary for maintaining Bicing are too much, even if the city’s metro swallows over a billion euros each year. In the same article BACC points out that “public bicycles make an average of 40.000 daily trips and the cost of 1 kilometer is 0,33 cents, slightly less than that of the bus”.
Getting one’s own bicycle is nice but many people in Barcelona prefer not having to deal with maintenance and most of all, theft. If the city worked towards eliminating bicycle theft, maybe more people would get their own bike. Until then, I hope our government realises that “bike sharing saves lives and cuts carbon emissions” as April put it, and “that Bicing saves around 12.46 lives per year in the Barcelona population”. In an effort to save Bicing, BACC has launched the #SalvemElBicing (let's save Bicing) campaign; join in if you care!