Between the 70s and 80s the bicycle was in decline. The few who used it saw it as a sports and recreational vehicle, but its function as a means of transport was almost residual. It was at this time, when no one believed in cycling, when some members of Biciclot met with Maragall to raise the need to create bike lanes. His response was "And why not?"
This anecdote gives title to the study “I per què no? The return of the bicycle to Barcelona (1977-1997) "prepared by the geographers Azahara Sillero and Ángel Cebollada and the historian Santiago Gorostiza. The presentation of the study included the participation of Sillero, Cebollada and the geographer, Oriol Nel·lo. The event also served to discuss the present and future of sustainable mobility in the city with a round table, held in the Superilla de Sant Antoni, with Silvia Casorrán, attached to the chief architect of the Barcelona City Council; Carme Miralles, professor of geography and vice-rector of Campus Sustainability and Territory of the UAB and Daniel Eritja, member of the association "Amics de la Bici." The event was moderated by the journalist Milagros Pérez-Oliva.
Currently, bicycles are common in Barcelona's streets, but their return is the result of a historical process. Sillero and Cebollada say that the environmental movements of the 70s were the first to raise the need to promote the bicycle as a key element in making a city more livable. One of the milestones, according to the authors of the study, is the publication of the ban on the circulation of bicycles, in 1989, by the Barcelona City Council and which committed the local Administration to "favor the use of bicycles and take, consequently, the pertinent measures ". Another key date is the bicycle congress, Velocity, which was held in Barcelona in 1997, and which became a public and social recognition of the bicycle as a means of transport also in Barcelona.
Despite the advances, today, private transport occupies a very important part of public space. "This way of moving, through private transportation, causes an extensive occupation that leaves no space for other activities," argued Milagros Pérez-Oliva. A significant fact is that 93% of the distances between metropolitan municipalities are less than 10 km and that makes the bicycle a realistic option in many of the trips that occur in the city. Furthermore, only 15% of journeys are made by car or motorcycle, while these occupy 65% ??of public space.
The rise of the bicycle, but it needs more and better infrastructures. As Silvia Casorrán recognized "The cycling infrastructure in Barcelona is totally insufficient for the volume of cyclists in Barcelona. We have to make the whole city cyclable." In this sense, Eritja clarified that "bike lanes are not the universal solution, but rather to make a livable city that can reach everywhere, on foot and by bicycle, safely.
Carme Miralles assured that one of the challenges of today's cities is the distribution of public space. Therefore, the debate on the bicycle is not only about this means of transport, but also about mobility, in general terms. To look at the most pioneering cities, Miralles pointed out Paris and London, two metropolises that are leading a new urban model based on more sustainable mobility
For Eritja, the city of the future must "discourage mobility and reduce forced mobility". This happens by working closer to where you live and encouraging teleworking. And above all, she says, we must "discourage car use and suppress urban highways."
Working Paper available here.