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longbeachcyclists.com » 2010 » April » 11

Cyclists from Long Beach visit Spain

Sevilla is a Spanish city that is rich in history, yet is also very modern in its cycling infrastructure. Citizens and visitors can rent bicycles (free for the first 30 minutes) at any of 250 bike parking facilities. Long Beach, take note!

The program is called “Sevici,” which is the city’s name, Sevilla, combined with the Spanish word for bicycle, “bicicleta,” affectionately also known as “bici”. Spaniards pronounce the letters ‘ci‘ with a lisp—‘seh-VEETH-ee’.

Each “Sevici” rental bicycle has water-spatter protection, a handy basket and lock, and a walkthrough design for ease of use—folks dressed in expensive skirts or suits will not soil their clothing.

Long Beach Cyclists member Donald Moore recently visited several cities in Spain, accompanied by his family, and he files the following report:

Biking in Spain, by Donald E. Moore

My family and I spent three weeks, from Christmas until January 14, 2010, sightseeing and visiting a friend in Spain. It was great fun. Among other things, I noted biking conditions in the cities we visited.

Seville is about 300 miles south of the Spanish capital, Madrid. Like most Spanish cities, Seville is built along a river and offers a lot to see. It has an extensive system of bike paths, is very bike friendly and has a public bike rental program.  According to Wikipedia, Seville has 250 bike stations, inaugurated in April of 2007, with 2,500 bikes.

My family used the short-term, one week membership that costs 5 euros, (about US$7.50). The first half hour is free, the next hour costs 1 euro (about US$1.50), and subsequent hours cost 2 euros each, (US$3.00). You can use any credit card to purchase membership at the control pane located at each of the 250 locking stations. A deposit of 150 euros (US$225) is taken from your card to deter theft and is returned when the bike is locked up again at any station.

Obviously, the Seville municipality wants you to ride a bike to the station nearest your destination and leave it there for the next rider. Locking stations are spaced about two city blocks apart.

As you can see in the photos, Sevici bikes have a step-through frame, upright bars, effective fenders and a chain guard and medium-width tires. A Sevici rental bike has a very good dynamo lighting system that is always turned on, front and rear. It has a three-speed internal hub transmission, and a built-in cable lock for locking the bike when away from a locking station. Sevici bicycles must have originally been designed for circus bears as they weigh about fifty pounds; their brakes could be a disaster on a long, steep hill! Fortunately, the neighborhoods where I rode are almost flat.

Sally and I had a great time riding our Sevici bicycles on the many separated bike paths and along the river path. Seville drivers were courteous. The city is very bicycle friendly.

Other cities we visited include Madrid and Salamanca.

Spain’s capital is “sunny” Madrid. When we visited, there was as much snow as sun.

Madrid has a great deal of history and culture. Our friend Ramón says that Madrid has a “beltway” of paths around the city and is building “spokes” into the center.  Although Ramón walks to work, he does not commute by bike because he does not feel it is safe.  With the narrow streets, buses and taxis there, I do not blame him. Madrid is less bike friendly than Long Beach. In downtown Madrid there seem to be more motor scooters and motorcycles than cars. I did not find a public bike rental system there. As in other parts of Spain, about one half of all bikes are folders—probably due to small living spaces.

The next city we visited was Salamanca, about 76 miles northwest of Madrid. Salamanca is much smaller than Madrid. It is more bike-able and has a very nice bike path along the river and elsewhere. Salamanca is a beautiful little city, with a university, cathedrals and museums. Although Salamanca has no public bike rental system, I would say it is very bike friendly. The lack of a bike and rain there kept us from enjoying the bike paths.

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The author of this report, Donald E. Moore, was recently elected Long Beach Cyclists board secretary. Don, congratulations!