Barcelona’s City Bicycle Program – Nice Bicing

Barcelona features–like Paris’ oh so grey Vélib or London’s bright yellow OYBike–a city-sponsored rent-a-bicycle-easily program called Bicing. The small-wheeled red bicycles (photo to right) can be remarked easily, being ridden by mostly Barcelona citizens on grey days and sunny days alike. Started in March 2007, the Bicing program is notable for one thing: it is thought to be only for the Barcelona residents! Every local person (e.g. taxi drivers and pedestrians) to whom I spoke said that these bicycles could only be rented out by the locals. This is in contradiction to the brochure which clearly is written in English (as well as Catalan and Castillan, of course) and states that the bike can be rented out for all your touristic visits. Moreover, the majority of the bike stations are located at the highly touristic centres. Even the Bicing website, which is only in Catalan and Castillan, talks about the usage for tourism purposes.

For further reading on Barcelona’s Bicing, please go here: Treehugger or BlastBlog.

The Barcelona program is an overriding success if you listen to the citizens. That said, with only 1500 bikes (100 stations), there must be some challenges in terms of availability, etc. Paris’ Velib now boasts around 20,000 bicycles. London’s program, begun in August 2004, is largely focused on the western region of London (I can’t find how many) bikes there are in the OYBike program). Other cities that feature a similar bicycle program include Copenhagen (2000 bikes), Stockholm CityBike (with the same bikes as Bicing, but in blue), Lyon Velo’V (1500) and in Germany, for those traveling one-way along the Ruhr Valley, in the revier rad network, there is the Hase low-rider bicycle.

Certainly, with all these programs cropping up in Europe, you would hope the same eco-friendly initiatives might take root in certain cities in the States. In Asia, in certain cities, it might be like bringing coals to Newcastle… although with the increase in motorcycles (Hanoi, etc.) and cars, keeping the bicycle tradition wouldn’t hurt. Anyone know of any cities in the US considering or doing a similar program?

For posterity’s sake

If you have ever thought of leaving some current day objects in a time capsule for discovery in the future, chances are that you underestimated nature. The story of this 1957 time capsule — including a car and various everyday items of the time — show that even 50 years is a long time. Oklahoma Time Capsule. Of course, when one sees remains of 100+ year old boats recovered from the seabed — two wonderful relatively recent examples of which are the Vasa in Stockholm and the CSS Hunley submarine in Charleston — one does have more hope. But, plan for extra sediment as that seems to be best antidote against time. As for us mere mortals, don’t forget to try a mud bath or, for the more rambunctious, play the super muddy “Swamp” Football. [You’ll have to wait another year to sign up for the UK championships]

First impressions of Sweden

As is my wont on any first time in a country, I love to jot down the first impressions that hit me… if only to confirm some generalizations and, probably, regurgitate very obvious observations.

  • First suprise, the “noise free” Stockholm (Arlanda) airport, whereby no general announcements are made and people are very respectful of each person’s [aural] space. In the streets, it is considered gauche to laugh out loud (shows signs of being drunken/disorderly). Even kids seemed to be quieter.
  • Going to get a taxi outside at the airport, we found five taxi drivers with their hand up, standing beside their taxi, not uttering a word. You are invited to chose the driver you want (very egalitarian in a certain sense…) as they each represent different companies.
  • In a showing of equality, passengers will frequently sit in the front seat alongside the taxi driver.
  • At the offices, there is generally a basket of fruit to encourage healthy eating.
  • Women. Aside from the 48% of women in the Swedish parliament, and the fact that men take responsibility for half of the household and child-caring chores (you are just as likely to find a man pushing a pram as a woman), women give systematically very firm handshakes (a true pleasure). Naturally, I avow that the Swedish women were attractive.
  • It is most usual for boys to go out for dinner as a group of boys and girls with girls.
  • There is no [commonly used] word for “please” in Swedish.
  • The Swedes like to be punctual (very appreciated as far as I was concerned).
  • A mile in Sweden is 10 kilometers! Had no idea there was another measurement for a mile (in addition to the nautical mile).

At last, aside from learning a few key words and phrases, I was able to talk about what the word “morsan” means…which is how I have affectionately called my mother since my teen years. Morsan is slang Swedish for “mother.”

Visit to Stockholm – Restaurant recommendation

Visited Stockholm this week. Discovered a delightful city and the pleasures of Swedish cuisine (read: lots of pickled herring and fish in general). Most highly recommended restaurant (restaurang in Swedish) is called Vassa Eggen, located in the heart of town. Lovely setting, discrete and rapid service and above all fine dining featuring local plates. Also enjoyed a “local” and sold out dinner at Ulla Winbladh; although truth be told, the food was a notch below “fine” cuisine… That didn’t take away from the lovely setting on one of the many islands and an attractive decor.

The Berns Hotel is well situated with art deco surroundings and nice details in the rooms. No sports facility on site, but you get free access to the Grand Hotel’s facilities.