My Point of View #2

MY POINT OF VIEW 2 (by Tatiana Sisquella)

Maybe it’s just me, even when I was a little girl it didn’t come naturally to me to just get up on to a bicycle and go for a ride. How can I put it? I just never found it any fun at all. In fact, one of the worst days in my entire childhood was the afternoon that my father decided that that was quite enough of having those two stabilisers on either side of the wheels. I was a big 8-year-old girl now, and so it was time to face up to life with courage, and without stabilisers.

It has to be said that since that day I have never again ridden a bicycle of my own free will. What is more, I have only ever repeated the experience once, on the day of my father’s 40th birthday, as a gesture of eternal love towards him. (Yes, I know: there is a kind of unresolved conflict between my father, bicycles and me, but that’s another subject).

I am writing all this because I want to talk about Barcelona as a welcoming city – welcoming for bicycles, that is. For some time now Barcelona has become full of bicycles: coloured bicycles, metallic bicycles, posh bicycles, children’s bicycles, mountain bicycles, lost bicycles, new bicycles and, obviously, stolen bicycles.

It all started as a simple gesture of copy-and-paste. People travel, see different parts of the world, and they pick up ideas from all over the place. Suddenly, the fashion for cycling becomes a minority phenomenon, and the city council finds itself obliged to create a cycle-lane which partially occupies some of the main streets in the city. It was curious to see how, walking down the Diagonal, for example, on your left there was a lane reserved for bicycles, but suddenly you came to a junction and whoops! the lane disappeared. At the time that caused quite a furore among the cyclists, who, under the banner of ecological concerns, clamoured not only for bikes to get their own lane, but to get one  that was above all else continuous.

This conflict was finally overcome (on the one side they gave in a little, and the others got tired of protesting) and that’s how we were able to get to the following and definitive level of cyclist integration: <<¨Bicing¨. Bicing is a bicycle-hire service intended for making short trips within the city of Barcelona. You can take out an annual subscription and the whole business comes out pretty cheap. They are white and red bicycles with a pretty basic frame, not too much decoration, and a light in front and another at the back. I am explaining all this to you because if you are in Barcelona, you will see these bicycles around and about all day, and there are a couple of things you need to know:

–    There are streets in which you will have to look anything between 4 and 6 times in either direction before crossing in order not to run the risk of getting run over by a bicycle, a bus, a car or a mother with a pram. So make sure you leave the hostel early.
–    The cyclists use their bells a lot, but that doesn’t mean that they always have the right of way. Oh no!
–    A red traffic-light means that you can’t go through, although in the cylists' handbook in this city, this is a rule that is very flexible.
–    Don’t get too excited about the Bicing, because if you are a tourist, you won’t be able to use it.*

*I would like to clarify this last point. It is not the fact that you are a tourist that disqualifies you from enjoying the fantastic sensation of moving by bicycle around a city that is not equipped for moving around it by bicycle. It is more a question of time. The hiring of these machines is intended for journeys of 30 minutes. Therefore the City Council considers that you, the tourists, need another kind of service that will allow you to keep the bicycle for longer. Good old-fashioned bicycle hire, in other words.

One way or another, each one will find their favourite way to travel around this splendid city of ours. But if you go by bicycle, bear in mind that this is not Amsterdam, and I don’t say that because there aren’t any coffee shops…

QUESTION: Why Barcelona?
ANSWER: because some street-corners have a lot of space for parking on.

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