Every Friday, a bunch of Barcelona kids jet through the city on their bikes before school starts – without having to watch out for cars, because: For one hour on Friday mornings, they are allowed to use the streets as bike paths. For that hour the city closes the streets completely for cars. Children and parents cycle to school accompanied by music and good humor. The scheme is called “BiciBus” and has been conquering the city over the past few weeks.
The Bicibús is the Spanish answer to the yellow school buses of America. Every Friday morning a colorful column of bicycles has been pedalling its way through the streets. Schoolchildren and their parents are allowed to use the street as an extended bike lane on this day of the week. Cars are not allowed for this time – a fair compensation in a city that has subordinated itself to motorized traffic for decades.
Fridays now play host to organized morning exercise with no exhaust fumes and no engine noise. What started with five children and their dedicated parents has developed into an organized “morning sports event” within a few weeks. A party on wheels, you could say. With music and a specially installed police escort, the schoolchildren dash across the asphalt. The police car drives ahead, the kids pedal diligently behind. The music boxes on the parents’ bicycle trailers play good-mood music, and passers-by also applaud the lively bicycle convoy.
The Bicibús gives the children independence and the parents know that their little ones can cycle to school safely, at least on one day of the week. It starts at the Sant Antoni market hall in the Eixample district. About a hundred children gather there every week for the morning party on wheels.
Cycling in Barcelona – A Model for all of Spain?
Until recently, no one in Barcelona would have believed that so many children could ride their bikes to school. For many decades now, the city has been dominated by car traffic. Only rarely do you see courageous cyclists in the cityscape. No one really wants to have to fight their way through the sometimes four-lane city streets. 1,400 km of car roads are contrasted with about 240 km of bike paths. There are also no wide family bike paths. The problem exists throughout Spain. Bicyclists are a rather rare sight, unlike in other major European cities. But with the conquest of the asphalt in Barcelona, this now seems to be slowly changing. Perhaps the self-organized bicycle convoy will lead to a greater change in thinking.