April 6th, 2015

The many bikers of Seville.

“Seville is the poster child of the modern bicycle planning movement. Nothing less.”
Copenhagenize

I was just in Seville, Spain (population 700K) to ride around, study the urban layout and better understand how Seville became a model for enlightened city transportation and a leader in the city bike movement.

The most unique thing about the people who ride bikes in Seville is that they are not very unique. Basically, everybody rides, just as everybody walks, and it’s not a big deal. You see musicians, parents with kids, fashionable women, old dudes hunched over smoking cigarettes, one legged guys, tourists, commuters, the entire gamut. It is the two-wheeled definition of pluralism and democracy.

A flashy fixie in Seville

In the 2013 Copenhagenize survey of the Most Bike Friendly Cities, Seville ranked 4th out of 20 top cities, behind the bike-friendly powerhouses of Amsterdam, Copenhagen and Utrecht. This prestigious ranking on the part of Seville is a result of great political vision and will.

It’s a vision that’s very much in line with that of the Making Cities Liveable movement, a movement that focuses on “designing urban cities in a way that enriches the quality of everyday life of the city’s inhabitants.” Basically, Sevillanos were fed up with the noise, traffic and pollution generated by cars and buses and wanted a more liveable city where they could interact and live more openly.

The city officials heard their concerns and changes were made. Bike share programs were implemented and buses were replaced by light rail. (Horse drawn carriages were allowed to stay.) The results of these changes were impressive. The bike share program in Seville rose in usage from .5% in 2006 to 7% in 2013, according to Copenhagenize. And there is now over 180 miles of pleasant green bike track to ride along. I rode along it and was impressed by the robustness of it and high amount of usage.

Cool bike dividers, left. Seville’s bike share bikes, right.

Safety is always a key issue in biking. Curvy lanes go all around Seville, sometimes in parallel with sidewalks and sometimes crossing streets. Yet to keep things safe, there are cool little concrete markers and abundant signage.

Sane and respectful crosswalks of Seville.

In addition to the signage, people in Seville seem to have respect for pedestrians. Cars don’t whiz around at high speeds nor do they assume that their rights are more important than others. And everybody observes crosswalks. You will note that few cyclists wear helmets (a fact that’s true for most cities where infrastructure is set up to respect cyclists). Kids under 16 are required to wear helmets. It’s just very sane and civilized.

Seville isn’t new to this transportation thing. Magellan embarked from Spain on his first voyage to circumnavigate the globe. And while the miles of bike lanes in Seville aren’t enough for global navigation, it’s impressive to see how this Spanish city has made incredible strides in biking infrastructure and urban planning. It’s a place of civility and quality, and in my mind one of the most modern city designs in the world.

Happy riding and traveling,

Rob Forbes

650-rob-museum

Rob an his rented mixte at the Andalusian Center for Contemporary Art, Seville.