Seville- Segregated cycling for all
A few years ago Seville was just like many other European cities. Less than 0.5% of journeys were made by bike and the city experienced traffic deadlock several times a day due to its' antiquated road layout.
The cycling revolution started in 2003 when a new head of urban planning, José Garcia was appointed. This political change, together with a strong social movement in the city created the framework on which the cycling infrastructure could grow. Garcia, himself a keen cyclist, hired Manual Calvo to design the initial network of 70km of bike paths. Unlike many cycling routes in London, the Seville network would consist of segregated lanes- separating bikes by a physical barrier like a raised kerb or fence.
The subject of segregated bike lanes is often a well fought battleground in the planning stage of such projects but the Seville plans received little objection. Ironically as many previous cycling plans had not come to fruition then objectors did not voice their opinions as they thought this one would too never come to light. By the time construction had started it was too late to halt the plans. A huge part of the success of the project was to build over 70km at once. They knew that isolated paths do not increase cycling journeys overall so the 70km were completed in the first year. At present there are now over 120km of linked paths.
The paths themselves are not quite the width of those in Amsterdam or other prominent cycling cities and are two-way running just down one side of the road. At road junctions the paths curve and there are crossing lights for cyclists to permit safe transition. Occasionally there are trees or other objects in the cycle paths but this is to be expected as the lanes needed to be squeezed in to existing space- often replacing bus lanes or parking lanes.
The project has been a huge success with now around 6% of journeys completed by bike- around 70,000 people using bicycles in the city each day. Many now agree that cycling is the best way to see the area. Residents have also noticed the lower pollution levels and, as the lanes are also designed for wheelchairs, the whole area has become more accessible.
Notably the cyclists are not lycra-clad racers but normal folk making everyday journeys in ordinary clothing following a Dutch style rather than a London one. It's these kind of cyclists and potential cycle journeys that cycling campaigners like Chris Boardman would like to like to see more in the UK.
"If cycling looks and feels normal, more people will cycle. The more people cycle, the more lives will be saved from amongst the 37,000 that die each year from obesity-related illnesses."
All ages are represented in the cycling pool from children right up to pensioners. Helmets are not often seen but Spain has recently introduced new laws to target under 16's to encourage their use.
The Sevici bike hire fleet of 2500 bikes is available from 250 docking stations to complement the network. This has meant that hybrid journeys are also possible- commuting by bike or train from the surrounding regions then using a hire bike once within the city. The university also supports cycling by offering a plan where students are provided with a bike for the year.
The plan has also been of benefit to the local economy as the area now has over 50 bike shops- mostly focussed on training and bike repair.
If Spain, a country with no significant cycling culture can achieve this then just image what's possible in UK cities with the correct planning and funding. Let us know what you think of the Seville infrastructure and if you think it could be copied over here!