Biking and walking in Barcelona

4 Oct

[ It’s been too long since we’ve posted here — life in Barcelona has swallowed us up! ]

One of the things that keeps impressing me is how people get along in this city. A city with 3 million people (in the greater Barcelona area) provides ample challenges to keep everyone out of everyone else’s hair. Especially in the old city (Ciutat Vella) streets are narrow and are shared between people, bikes, scooters, motorcycles and cars. As you might imagine it gets nuts a times…

… but never too nuts. That’s the weird part! In general, cars drive slowly and are quite respectful of pedestrians and bikes — I didn’t expect that! There are a lot of bike paths scattered through the city, so getting around on a bike is easy and fun.

Admittedly, you need to pay a little more attention to where you’re going. Near the water you might encounter sidewalks to border to the water with no fences; nothing between you and the water. Near the river Besòs where I like to ride, there are bike ramps and stairs down into the river bed recreation area. One wrong move and you’re going from the safe bike ramp, straight down the stairs:

Be careful

And then there are some crazy intersections that initially really intimidated me. Consider this one:


View Larger Map

There is a major thouroughfare (Ave Meridiana) that has 4 lanes of traffic, 2 tram tracks and two bike lanes. It is also a cross intersection with bikes and pedestrians coming out of a park and 2 raods at 45º angles to the main road. Confusing and dangerous? Confusing yes, dangerous no. If you’re paying attention it is no big deal. Remember that no one goes very fast, including the trams and there isn’t a huge amount of traffic there. When I approach the intersection, I slow down and look to all directions and generally just keep moving slowly. Sometimes I need to wait for some cars or a tram to pass, but most of the time, I can just keep moving.

That brings up the topic of obeying red lights! Motor vehicles observe them; pedestrians and bikes pretty much ignore them and people go when they can. In fact, the way people walk in Barcelona is both awesome and vexing. People tend to walk slowly and they love to walk so they they are all next to each other. 8 people walking side by side — happens all the time. What happens then two rows of 8 people meet each other? Momentary cacophony, that’s what. But only momentary — people split apart and seconds later flow back to their original rows. This can happen constantly — every 10 seconds.

walking

And if people are not walking in rows, they likely looking at something, usually not where they are going. This can be frustrating if you’re moving faster than pedestrians are, but after a while you start paying attention to which way the people are looking. Pass them on the side that they are not looking towards, because people tend to drift in the direction that they are looking towards.

Aside from the random people who have their heads buried in their phones and walking even slower than usual, people really know how to walk and people have a very laid back attitude to getting around the city. Really, it’s quite lovely once you get rid of your “I’m in a hurry!” attitude.

And when you explore the city, you’re bound to find interesting things. Here is what I found on a ride last night:

pillars

This city has so many nooks and crannies that are memorable, have great views or random art stashed in them. You only need to go out and explore!

Here are more pictures relating to this topic.

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