Twenty years ago Seville was similar to Portsmouth: a city that was flat yet had virtually no cycling culture and was instead dominated by cars. At that time, only about 0.5% of journeys were made by bike, and the roads choked by four rush hours a day, due to siestas.
However, in 2003 a new political administration decided to create a network of completely segregated lanes, 80km of which would be completed in one go.
Work started in 2005 and by 2010 Seville’s cycling infrastructure had expanded from 12 km of unconnected cycle paths to a joined-up network of 120 km of bike lanes, all separated from traffic. Most of them were built on former parking spaces but raised to the level of the pavement, which made them safer for cyclists but also harder for subsequent governments to undo.
To supplement this a municipal bike hire scheme was created, offering 2,500 bikes and 250 docking stations. Furthermore, cycling and public transport infrastructure were linked up so passengers arriving at the city’s main bus station could use their ticket to borrow bikes, free for the whole day. The university also introduced an arrangement where students could hire bikes for the academic year.
The results were impressive: The average number of daily bike trips rose from just over 6,000 in 2005 to more than 70,000 now. An audit in 2014 found 6% of all trips were made by bike, an 11-fold increase from 2003.
With this has come a reduction in pollution levels and a more people-centred environment. The lanes are also designed for wheelchair users. “We suddenly made a lot of the city easily accessible,” says Calvo, a Sustainability Senior Consultant.
Economically Seville has benefitted too: in 2003 there were around 10 bikes shops. This number has risen to 50, with at least one running courses for unemployed locals to become trained cycle mechanics. Meanwhile, in the old town, e-cargo bike deliveries have replaced vans and bike tours are an increasing part of the tourist itinerary.
One of the biggest advantages of segregated bike lanes is that they provide the safety to encourage a wider variety of users, not just confident cyclists. In Seville, this includes commuters (31% of all weekday trips), kids going to school (26%), and the retired on leisure rides. In particular, it has encouraged women to cycle more: in 2006 they made up just a quarter of all cyclists, they now account for over a third.
The attitude of the Seville population has changed. Bikes are everywhere. They are now on the mobility equation of thousands of people. Building this network has demonstrated that if you do something, people respond.