Sidewalks and bike lanes have been expanded by the ajuntament as one possible solution to encourage city residents to forego public transportation in Barcelona for shorter trips around town. COVID-required social distancing rules mean fewer of us can take public transportation; although the dedicated drivers continue to provide service, there are fewer buses and trains. As much as we already have adapted to life during quarantine, de-escalation will require its own changes to our established routines. (Check out the tl;dr in blue box at the end of the article.)
I have a personal theory that using public transportation in Barcelona has strengthened my immune system and patience. Anyone who has ridden those workhorses of the city — the H8, 7, D20, 59, V17, and others — has been on at least one crowded, sweaty, smelly, rain-soaked, and slow bus ride across town. Yet, we love them (admit it!). Public transportation in Barcelona is relatively comprehensive, efficient, safe, clean, and reliable (except during a manifestacion, when there are no rules). Barcelona residents mostly defer to older passengers and persons with disabilities for seats and space. We all know to turn a deaf ear to fussy babies. And even with the recent price changes to the integrated ticket, public transportation in Barcelona remains an affordable option. It’s one of the many reasons to love this city.
Yet, and fortunately, it is not the only option in this city. There are already kilometers of dedicated bicycle lanes and sidewalks used by thousands of people on a daily basis. As in other European cities, including Milan and Paris, Barcelona is using the quarantine situation to quickly set up 21km of additional lanes. The highly visible, bright-yellow areas on many major thoroughfares are intended to help reduce use of public transportation and move away from car traffic. Also, a major side benefit may be the improvement of the city’s poor air quality caused by traffic pollution.
There are five major changes being implemented, some of which you may already see around town.
- Painted bicycle lanes on major thoroughfares.
- Reduced car lanes on some streets, including areas where cars and bicycles will share one lane, with a maximum speed limit of 30km/hour.
- Existing side lanes for cars on Gran Via and Diagonal changed to pedestrian-only use.
- Expanded sidewalk areas marked by paint, including on Via Laietana.
- Increased bicing stations and bicycles.
Not everyone may be able to switch to using bicycles, walking, or scooters, of course. There always will be a need for multiple modes of transportation in a city with a population of diverse needs. The new lane expansions add to our available options.
What’s happening now?
New bike lanes: Pau Claris between Diagonal and Urquinaona; Gran Via between Aribau and P/de Gràcia; Via Augusta between Diagonal and LaForja; València between A/Roma and Diagonal.
Traffic calming zones: Consell de Cent will be reduced to just one shared lane for cars and bicycles between Girona and Rocafort. You may notice painted areas for pedestrians, plus partially blocked access points at Girona and Rocafort.
Pedestrian lanes: Gran Via from Pl. Tetuan to Pl. España will have one lane towards the sea dedicated for pedestrians. Diagonal will have a dedicated lane for pedestrians on the mountain side from Marina to P/de Gràcia and the sea side from P/de Gràcia to Pl. Françesc Macia. Should make for fun times at the P/de Gràcia roundabout. So what’s the big deal? These new lanes will be in what are currently the side lanes on Diagonal and Gran Via.
More information on all of the changes on the ajuntament’s website.