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You Don’t Need to Be a Local to Cycle Barcelona

From China to Abu Dhabi, from London to Rome, cities around the world are offering bike share schemes. The benefits of bike sharing from a municipal point of view are massive. Share bikes help cities hit aggressive emissions targets, cut pollution, greenhouse gases and traffic, and reduce pressure on often over-burdened public transport systems, not to mention parking.

Yet in many cities the focus is on locals, rather than the tourist market. Barcelona’s Bicing, for example, requires an annual down payment of almost €50, which gives you unlimited free journeys of under half an hour – great value for a local, but not much use for someone who’s only in town for a few days, and wants to use a bike for a full day.

And that’s sad, as pedal power can make a great way to get around cities, and really needn’t be limited to cycling meccas like Amsterdam.

Bicycle rests in a Barcelona street.

Donkey Bike is a new service from a Copenhagen tech firm that centres on a smart bike lock. Rather than having to handle cards and, as in China, physical keys that are easily lost, everything works from your smartphone.

You find and book your nearest bike in the app, and then can lock and unlock it unlimited times using your phone. You can extend rentals at will – assuming the bike’s available – but, unlike with many municipal schemes, you do have to drop the bike back at the same location you collected it from.

The scheme recently began to offer bike rental in Barcelona at the rate of just €10 per day. It’s handy for tourists, and, thanks to the city’s expansive free wifi that’s available in metro stations, on buses, and in civic buildings from museums to market places, you don’t need to spend money on roaming data.

And it’s also a great way to get around the city. Barcelona has around 200km of cycle paths, from the intense workout of a climb up Montjuïc to gorgeous routes out to the beaches of Maresme. The city’s regular grid layout makes it hard to get comprehensively lost, while the coast makes a handy and scenic guideline.

So even if your main interest in Barcelona is eating paella, you can travel in style, with the wind in your hair, without any of the worries of hiring a car. Just try not to drink and cycle!

Image credit: Bike by Stephanie Overton on Flickr’s Creative Commons.