Sevilla’s bike invasion

Sevilla is the biggest city in southern Spain. Some of you may know it for its cathedral, its royal gardens (Reales Alcázares) or the beautiful Plaza de España. However, you probably don’t know much about its bike lanes.

In 2014, 6% of all trips in Sevilla were made by bike. This may not seem impressive, at least not enough to write an article about it, but if you consider pre-bike lane Sevilla, the difference is huge. I’ve heard of tourists who have been to Sevilla and think it’s no big deal, but trust me, I lived in Sevilla until October 2014 and have seen its evolution.

Bike lane near Torre del Oro

Bike lane near Torre del Oro

Before 2003, only 0,5% of the trips were made by bike, and roads choked with cars and pollution. Then, the United Left (IU) won enough council seats in the elections to jointly govern with the Socialist Party (PSOE), and managed to get bike lane network plans in the coalition agreement. The whole thing didn’t really start until 2006, and the story is quite funny. In words of José García Cebrián, Sevilla’s head of urban planning, there’s a lot of planning about cycling, but the plans usually get put into a drawer. That’s the reason there was no opposition during the planning process: nobody thought something would actually happen. By the time the opposition started, the infrastructure was already being built and there was no way back. Actually, the surprise was so big that, on the first day, some officials from the transport department, separate from his urban planning section, unsuccessfully tried to stop the construction crews.

The system nowadays

12 kilometres of bike lanes were built in 2006. Four years later, the distance was ten times that. A year ago, there were almost 171 kilometres of green-painted bike lanes, and 68,000 trips were being made every day. Not too bad, considering Sevilla has 700,980 inhabitants. Of those 68,000 trips, 50,000 were made with private bikes, and 18,000 were made with public ones.

Speaking about public bikes, Sevici (a word game involving Sevilla and bicicleta, bike in Spanish) is the name of the public bike system. Last year, there were 477 bike parking facilities in the town. A Sevici card costs little more than 33 euro per year, and it allows people to use a bike for free for the first half hour. Obviously, when people need to use it for longer, they just park it after 30 minutes and use a different one after that.


This is where public bikes are parked

Opposition to bike lanes

Not everyone likes this though: Partido Popular, the biggest right wing party in Spain, wasn’t very happy with the bike lane system. When they won the elections in 2011, the lanes were used by so many people that they couldn’t really do anything to completely stop people from using them, but they cancelled a plan to stop cars from getting into the historic city centre and they closed down the Bicycle Office. Nowadays they’re basically passive about the whole thing, although their official position is “facilitating sustainable mobility”.

However, in spite of the limited love the authorities have for the bike lane system, people are happy with it, do more exercise, and it’s a good way to fight pollution and traffic jams.  Hopefully, people will travel by bike more and more to make Sevilla a healthier town.

What do you think?

Our Correspondent
Cult Spain correspondent
Juan - Madrid

Born and raised in beautiful Sevilla, I now live in Madrid. I'm a huge music lover (I started writing a music blog in January 2014). Travelling, learning about different cultures, walking around (and getting lost), reading and having meaningful conversations are some of ...

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