This is the English translation of the article “Las cuentas claras sobre el Plan de la Bicicleta de Sevilla 2007-2010”, written in Spanish by our friends of Biciescuela Granada.
There has been lots of talk about the good results of Seville’s Cycling Plan 2007-2010. Among the advantages commonly granted to the cycling promotion model use in Seville, these are the main three:
- Increase in the number of bicycle users
- Reduction in car usage
- Reduction in bicycle accidents
The scope of Seville’s Cycling Plan was to build a 142 km long network of segregated bike lanes. Practically all of them were at sidewalk level, having two directions of traffic (bidirectional), 1,25 m wide per direction and using the same road intersections as pedestrians. The cost of building this network was 35 million Euro (250,000 Euro per km) (El País, 11 May 2014). Moreover, the total estimated four-year cost for the plan’s management was 6.7 million Euro divided into:
- ten specific projects about traffic education, health, etc. (4.9 million, 73.2% of the budget)
- infrastructure maintenance (662,000 Euro, 9.8%)
- “Oficina de la Bicicleta” (Cycling Office) (234,000 Euro, 3.4%)
- Civic commision (234,000 Eur, 3.4%)
- Bike parkings (162,000 Eur, 2,4%)
(Source: Plan de la Bicicleta de Sevilla, 2007)
1. Increase in the number of bicycle users
According to the data provided by Seville’s Cycling Plan (2007), in spring 2006 -just before the network of segregated bike lanes was built-, bicycle trips were 3.2% of the city’s traffic (41,744 persons cycled daily). In addition to this figure, 47,554 persons were cycling several times per week. Therefore, according to Seville’s Cycling Plan, 88,692 persons could be considered bicycle users. None of the Plan’s authors were expecting this result: according to them, “it is a surprising figure” (Seville’s Cycling Plan, 2007, p. 20). According to this data, Seville was in 2006, before building the network of bike lanes, one of the Spanish cities were bicycle usage was higher. Indeed, in 1986 it was already, when 31,500 bicycles were travelling daily throughout the city (Sevilla es la ciudad española en la que más se usa la bicicleta ABC, 12 agosto de 1986, p. 29).
Just after Seville’s Cycling Plan was completed the number of people using a bicycle in a day-to-day basis reached its higher number: 72,565 (5.6% of the modal share) (SIBUS, 2011). Since then, this figure has decreased: 69.500 in 2013 (SIBUS, 2013) and 61,700 in 2015 (SIBUS, 2015) with more than 160 km of segregated bike lanes (Europa Press, 26 de febrero de 2016). All these figures are even lower than the 88,692 persons that in 2006 were already using their bikes several times per week. Therefore, the bicycle usage figures show that Seville’s Cycling Plan was not as successful as it has been repeated several times: after spending 42 million Euro it did not even manage to duplicate the number of people using bicycles routinely.
In any case, in all cities in Spain (with or without promotion policies, more hits or misses, positive or negative consequences) an exponential increase is happening in bicycle usage as a daily means of transportation. The striking fact is that in Seville the opposite is happening: bicycle usage is decreasing. Probably the cause is that the chosen infrastructure was obsolete since the plan’s beginning: it is especially narrow (it jams easily), no lateral security spaces, conflicts with pedestrians… which makes unsafe to travel on them at a speed higher than 10 km/h, and therefore it prevents developing the entire cycling’s potential as a means of transportation when compared with other vehicles. As a matter of fact, Seville’s city regulations require cyclists to use bike lanes wherever they exist (art. 35) (some lanes on the sidewalks also have signs marking them as compulsory) and segregated bike lanes have speed limits between 15 and 20 km/h (art. 39).
Regarding bike usage growth in Spanish cities, we can take as an example Granada, where there has not been any systematic public policy promoting cycling. Even though there have not been measurements of cycling in the modal share, we know a few data points:
- According to the number of users registered at the bike parking facilities at the University Hospital Virgen de las Nieves, 10% of the staff are bike users (Juan Raya, personal communication, 2016).
- Cycling amounts to 9% of traffic in Gran Vía and Reyes Católicos streets according to our own measurements (Biciescuela Granada, 2016).
- According to a mobility study at UGR done by Blanco (2011), 6% of the university community cycles (7.91% of the men and 4.08% of women): more than 50% are students and 35% are women. 7.79% of the university community living in central Granada cycles, and 2.71% of the ones living in the metropolitan area cycle.
In the Netherlands 90% of the population used to cycle until the first half of the 20th century (Netherlands Ministry of Transportation, 1999; Bruheze undated.). They have never achieved the same figures again, not even with unidirectional bike lanes. Instead, in Spanish cities never in history have we had that many cyclists on our streets. Moreover, the weight of pedestrian travel in our urban environment equals the sum of foot traffic plus cycling in most Dutch or Danish cities.