Barcelona’s very popular public bike sharing program, Bicing, is set to increase its user fees drastically in the coming years, as part of the current government’s changing policies. The current government of Catalonia has responded to criticism of the policy change by saying that if people didn’t like it that they should buy their own bike.
The stated reason for the fee raises is the current economic crisis that tha area is experiencing. Services are being cut everywhere and fees are being raised.
Bike sharing programs provide many benefits to cities, though, some of which (like traffic relief and reduced automobile accidents) may be getting overlooked by the current government.
Bicing’s yearly fee for unlimited service will be raised by 116% in 2013, quite a large increase, and one that could potentially cripple the program. Since early March 2007, the success of Bicing has led to many Barcelonians becoming everyday cyclists and changing the city for the better. The increased fees will make Bicing the most expensive public bike sharing program in Europe.
“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.” (Note for Americans: 150.000 = 150,000)
As critics of the change have stated, there are likely much better ways to decrease the administration’s cost for public transport than damaging a very effective bike sharing program and the benefits that it provides.
“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.”
But as critics have pointed out, “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.”
One of the main issues brought up by the policy change is that the theft of personal bikes is very common in Barcelona, making renting a bike only for one trip more appealing. One of the primary benefits of the Bicing program is that the Bicing bikes are harder to steal and then sell than private bikes are. Critics have said that, if the city worked harder to eliminate bike thefts, then more people would likely be willing to buy their own bikes, but as it stands, customers that leave Bicing will likely simply drive more not buy their own bike.
In an effort to save Bicing, The Catalan Bicycle Club has launched the #SalvemElBicing (let’s save Bicing) campaign.
For the fate of the sons of men and the fate of beasts is the same; as one dies, so dies the other. They all have the same breath, and man has no advantage over the beasts; for all is vanity. - Ecclesiastes 3:19