Friday, September 09, 2011

Biking elsewhere

Over the past two weeks I was in Italy and in Spain, for conferences. In addition to everything else, I tried to keep an eye out for things bicycle out of curiosity about how things were done elsewhere. Unsurprisingly things were different.

Some things that I noticed in Florence:
1) Issues of salmoning, filtering, riding the sidewalks and so on were moot. All of these were happening and non one seemed to care.
2) Bicycles were utilitarian: no fancy components, unrecognizable brands (or just bare downtubes) and a general disregard for upkeep.
3) People cycled to get around and that was about it,. I did see one roadie on the ring road but that was it.

Some things that I noticed in Granada:
1) Almost no bikes to speak of. This was maybe not entirely surprising: the town is pretty hilly and you'd probably have to be pretty dedicated to bike around all the time.
2) The bikes that I did see were mountain style with big mostly knobby tires.
3) On a trip to the Sierra Nevada (by car) we did run into a large ride puffing up a hill (roadies in lycra, nice bikes, the whole bit). I noticed maybe only a couple of bikes with skinny tires.

In Seville:
1) Tons of bikes but no roadie types. This is actually not very surprising. Many streets are cobbled or brick and really rough to ride on.
2) The city has a well-organized municipal bike rental system. It's actually amazingly simple: you pop in your atm card to buy a 10 EUR 'subscription' (which also puts a 150EUR hold on your account), get a ID number and set up a password and you're all set. Bikes are available at automated stands all around the city. You log-on, select a bike and you're off. The system is set up to short term use: your first 30 mins are free, the next hour is 1EUR, hereafter it's 2EUR/hr. Just perfect to hop on to get somewhere and drop it off at a stand. The bike are big and heavy but surprisingly easy to ride. My hotel was about 2km from the historic area and all I had to do is hop on and off to get there. There were problems: while the bikes were generally in good condition I discovered that it paid to first check the bike before taking it (brakes especially). The empty bikestand happens, and also the full bikestand (nowhere to park!). But turnover is fast; it seemed like something would show up (or leave) within 5 minutes. I ended up not worrying about it

In Malaga:
1) Not many bikers to speak of, at least in the downtown area that I stuck to.

In general:
I noticed that in the urban center cars were the slowest, followed by bikes but both bested by the scooters. It made sense: cars are big and not all that maneuverable. Scooters move fast and generally ignore traffic, scooting between cars and so on. Bikes were slower but more adaptable: salmoning and sidewalks kept you moving and you could get through narrow spaces much easier.

No comments:

Post a Comment