Occasional PT correspondent Tony Valente was in Spain a few months ago and sends in this report on bike-sharing in four cities – one a day this week, beginning with Madrid.
While not quite as mountainous like Vancouver, Madrid has a few hills. That is likely why all bikes in the bike-share feature electric assist – and it quite simply made using the bikes very enjoyable! So much so its easy to go mad about BiciMAD … the Madrid bike-share’s catchy name.
The system is managed by BonoPark. It can get pretty toasty in Madrid temperature wise and the electric assist can help minimize sweating while enjoying the city’s sights. This bike share is a real alternative to bus or metro transportation because it allows both citizens and visitors to the city to rent at a relatively cheap daily rate.
The point-to-point usage of the bike-share made getting around very easy. There were many stations around town conveniently located in major plazas and close to transit and metro stations. On the downside, it should be acknowledged that the bikes were not all equal. On one occasion while pedaling up a steep calle, the electric-assist started kicking in and out. It was a bit disappointing and it ended up with one sweaty user by the top of the hill. It will be difficult to forget how heavy an ebike and its battery can be unassisted.
Docking stations were also a bit finicky when returning and withdrawing bikes. MOBI’s bike-mounted release mechanism appears to be a lot simpler in comparison. For seniors and those who struggle to lift a heavy steel bike, the system for connecting bikes required a lot of muscle.
Signage for tourists is not great when interfacing with the bike-share system. Following the English instructions on screen was further complicated because the terminal seemed to have a preference for some credit cards over others.
The major drawback of the Madrid bike-share, however, is not its bikes but the lack of infrastructure. There are few separated bike lanes. Madrid is a chaotic capital city and interestingly an approach has been taken to have bike riders ride not in the lane closest to the sidewalk, which is reserved for buses, but in the lane reserved for mopeds and motorcycles.
Even experienced rider will struggle with this. In theory this lane is limited to 30km/hour, but in reality mopeds and motorcycles whiz around you at speeds closer to 90km/hour. Children or the elderly should not be forced in to this lane.
Don’t be fooled by this tranquil-seeming scene from Google Maps…mopeds and motorcycles are there to nip at your tail