Kevin Thornton

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English Classes and Traveling in Barcelona. Nou Bicing: Is the Sequel Ever Better than the Original?

There was a particular and undeniable charm about the old (original) Bicing; the little-wheel big-wheel design, which made cycling hands-free a danger to all, the car-sized headlight emitting only the faintest of glows, the integrated handlebar/luggage carrier which was often so loose you felt the bike would snap in half mid-journey and not to forget; the saddle, so thin, it almost managed to be… intimate.  Good times.  

Originally designed as a city-central sharing operation of 1500 bicycles, Bicing’s massive popularity resulted in an expansion, four times larger than its original intended sized, covering a huge geographical area.

  • 6000 bicycles
  • 440 stations
  • 17 districts of Barcelona

In short is was a behemoth of a system, its unique design and scale making it an icon of Barcelona.  

All good things must, (they say), come to an end and since Bicing was designed to last 10 years; 12 years later we’ve been introduced to the sexy, sleek and… redder sequel; Nou Bicing.


With a few notable exceptions sequels are usually a massive let down and unlike; Terminator 2, Toy Story 3, The Dark Knight or Magic Mike XXL, the second iteration of Bicing is an unreserved disappointment. 

 

Gone are the over familiar seats… due to a much wider saddle you now get to sit using the cheeks of your bum rather than the space in-between. 

 

The anxiety and fear of a weak and rickety frame collapsing under the strain of trying to cycle to Sarria by 8:30am because the taxis are on strike again and they’ve decided to block every road and hold the city to ransom? … Replaced.   

A sturdy, yet lightweight frame with paintwork so glossy, so red, you’d swear you were riding a recycled Ferrari, takes its place.

Two-handed cycling? A thing of the past!.  The threat of the leading, little wheel deciding to make a sudden and spontaneous decision about which pedestrian you’re going to collide with.  Eliminated.

  Instead, you can cycle with both hands firmly on your mobile giving the distinct impression you’re on the Metro. 
 


But the thing about old Bicing was that it was always there when I needed it.  As dependable as my heartbeat; the Bicing-Army in their diesel vans always made sure there were always a couple of bicycles in a station and if not, I’d give her a tap with my card and there would be another 3 minutes away. 

Despite 500 hundred Nou Bicing stations proudly occupying Barcelona, approximately 5 (well maybe 50) stations have bikes at any time.  If you’re at the beach on Monday at 8am in March… Nou Bicing has your back with 25 iron horses at your disposal.  

Otherwise you might find a full rack in the centre of Poble Nou… result! I have a Bicing.  You arrive at Raval… first station.  Full.  You open up the app… this is going be harder than you thought.  You’re contemplating cycling back to Poble Nou to return your Bicing, hoping that the space is still available!  But the city-cycle-sharing gods favour you and you find an Bicing distribution guy in his electric powered trailer, (very nice) having just filled another Raval station to 100% capacity. 

“POR FAVOR! Señor, tengo que devolver la bicicleta! Ayudame!”

He happily obliges, takes a Bicing from the station and adds it to his rack.. and off he buzzes… like a mentally disturbed bumble bee.  
 


So, while Nou Bicing has a few visual, mechanical and environmental advantages over Bicing 1.0; it seems it’s All Show, No Go. 

Bicing 1.0 worked like a well oiled machine; constant redistribution, stations refilled based on anticipated demand, incentives for riders to use alternative stations in-app.  It had the user-experience at the forefront.  Nou Bicing has the potential to be awesome but until it stops taking filtered selfies and pouting in the mirror like an teenage girl and starts analysing user data, adopting an appropriate distribution strategy…. its going in the reject bin with Highlander 2, Son of the Mask and Batman & Robin. 

In the meantime if you’re struggling to get around the city because of Bicing absence try Scoot.  Get 30 minutes for free using code KEVINT1.

Its an electric bike & scooter rental service using an app. Resued me a few times. 

 

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