Have you ever walked down an incredibly busy street, let’s say, Portal de l’Angel, and heard an obnoxious and aggressive “ding” behind you? That is the battle cry of the ever-frustrated BiCing rider, who very rarely wins the war vs. pedestrians for the sidewalk.
If you are a tourist in Barcelona and you hear that spiteful “ding”, you might move and feel bad for being in the way. If you are a local, however, you will either change your direction ever so slightly without even checking, or you will just continue as if nothing happened.
To obtain the BiCing card, one must be a resident, permanent or temporary, in Catalunya. This in itself makes us BiCing riders think that we have the right-of-way against pedestrians, because after all, we are locals and they are tourists.
I have been in both the rider’s and the local pedestrian’s shoes, and I can tell you first-hand that it is annoying. Like anything, there are always pros and cons.
It allows you to save money
It only cost me 47 euros for my BiCing membership, and that is for an entire year. The maximum time you can take a bike out is 2 hours, and the first 30 minutes are always free. 47€ upfront compared to a T-10 metro card that costs 10€ and only gives 10 rides… You do the math and figure that it saves you A LOT of money.
It allows you to save time
Although the metro and general public transportation in Barcelona are extremely efficient, the tourist season can make punctuality near impossible. I live right by the Maria Cristina metro stop on Diagonal, and it takes me about 20 minutes to get to Plaça Catalunya by BiCing. The metro, however, takes about 25-30 minutes depending on the day and hour.
It gives you freedom
When using a bike you can take main roads (as long as you follow traffic signals), bike paths/lanes, sidewalks, back streets, and pretty much anywhere a pedestrian can go. This is extremely useful because you can take shortcuts to get around the crowded city.
There are charges and time limits
Although the first 30 minutes of BiCing are free, the minute you go over, a charge of € 0.71 is added to your card. If you use the bike for over two hours which is the maximum time limit, a charge of 4.30€ is applied. This leads to my next con, which is the absolute worst amongst us BiCing riders.
The bike stations
I think that every owner of a BiCing card can say that they have had a moment of absolute panic when they are nearing the 30-minute limit and the bike stations are all full. I often see lines of exasperated riders who are desperately hoping that someone walks by to check out a bike, or just other riders frantically biking around the surrounding beaches hoping for one open spot. But what about when the station is not working?
WARNING: if you see an open spot that has a blinking green and red light, be prepared to call the customer service, because if you park your bike there, it will not register, and you will get a charge of 4.30€.
The bikes themselves
Some of these bikes take an absolute beating, and when I say a beating, some of them are barely capable of pedalling 20 meters without the chain falling off the hinge. I often bike uphill at Comte d’Urgell from Sant Antoni to Diagonal, and when I have a bike that won’t change gears, or the seat won’t stay in place, it can definitely make a difficult uphill ride awful.
Although the cons are without a doubt horrible, I can still say that BiCing was a wonderful investment and has become my only means of transportation. Not to mention, a little extra exercise throughout the day doesn’t hurt. just be prepared to sweat!