Homage to Catalonia: Exploring Barcelona’s cycling revolution

The Spanish city is putting itself at the forefront of urban mobility when it comes to cycling and e-bikes, so what can we learn from it? Asks Sean Russell

<p>Superblocks are the future of low-traffic neighbourhoods in Barcelona </p>

Superblocks are the future of low-traffic neighbourhoods in Barcelona

The children attached purple balloons to their bags and to their bicycles – in recognition of international women’s day – and music blared out before they set off for school. This might seem normal, but this wasn’t just a few children, it was 50, most of whom were with their parents – they also had a police car to follow them. This was Barcelona’s BiciBus, and they were taking over the roads during Friday morning rush hour.

We left the Sant Antoni district at 8.30am and joined a busy road. The traffic had a green light to go but the cars did not move, instead adult volunteers on bikes in high-vis vests lined the junction, stopping traffic while the children swarmed on to the wide road. The police car followed on behind quietly, and we followed the music all the way to school.

It is a simple idea really. If you have nearly a hundred people riding, there’s not much a car can do but sit behind, therefore creating a totally safe environment in which children can cycle to school. Should it really take this minor form of protest to create safe roads for children? Perhaps not, but right now it’s necessary, and it might not be needed just in Barcelona but in cities across the world if real safe roads are to become normal.

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