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Bicing Smartbike, Barcelona

Bicing is billed as a new form of public transport by bicycle in Barcelona. It is based around the ‘Smart Bike’ system. The Barcelona Bicing scheme represents one of the recent success stories of a city that has introduced a bike hire service. The original plan was to install a total of 100 parking stations with 1,500 bicycles available. However, effective promotion, as well as a city culture and infrastructure ripe for bike sharing, provoked 30,000 users to sign up in the first two months. The success and popularity became apparent so quickly that the city council decided to expand the system to 6,000 bikes, to cover the ten inner districts of the city.

From the outset the scheme has been designed primarily for short journeys around the city, not for leisure cycling. Although initially it was possible for visitors to the city to use the scheme, this option was soon removed to control expansion. The service is now limited to those who work/live in the city. The annual subscription to the service is €24 which includes an RFID swipe card to unlock the bikes. The first 30 minutes are free and to take the bike longer the cost is €0.30 for each half an hour.

‘Bicing’ Smart Bike Sharing/ Public Transport system.

Clear Channel Outdoor (system provider) and management is in collaboration with BS:M, the public transport management company, on behalf of the Ayuntamiento (city council) of Barcelona.

Designer / Architect
Clear Channel, International street furniture division

The Smart Bikes system technology was developed in collaboration with Creacom.

Cost of Provision
The initial 1,500 bikes were installed as part of a scheme to last 10 years, on a budget of €2.23m per year, awarded to Clear Channel by the city council of Barcelona.

The updated cost for the now-expanded scheme is not available as yet

• Good basic level of relatively safe cycle infrastructure
• The service is very simple to use
• Reports indicate that the number of daily cyclists in Barcelona has increased by nearly 50% since the introduction of the service
• Ergonomic and comfortable bikes for many ages and both sexes. It is reported to be the lightest public bike on the market, at just over 16kg, which makes manoeuvrability simpler in city traffic and uses less energy to get around
• The latest bike version is proving more resistant to thefts and vandalism
• With the expanded Bicing system, the service now has many stations covering a great portion of the city’s working/ resident population
• The price of annual subscription (€24) is considered fair by 68% of users, according to a survey commissioned by the city council

• Due to quick expansion of the system, the operators have had difficulties to keep problems ironed out. The Bicing management have announced that users should not have such high expectations of the service while it is still being rolled out
• Some Bicing station locations are extremely popular and experience over demand. Some users report waiting 40 minutes to park or for a bike to become available at their chosen station
• As the system has tried to expand fast to cope with demand, there have been numerous reported technology failures, where whole stations will not allow bikes to be released or at other times, will not allow bikes to be parked
• Some users were not happy with the typical level of maintenance of the bikes and others are not satisfied with the level of customer service offered
• The system is no longer available on a day or week-basis and not available to visitors or tourists

Useful References

©2008 // DESIGN AGAINST CRIME RESEARCH CENTRE // LONDON WC1B 4AP fully funded by the AHRC / EPSRC Designing for the 21st Century Initiative