Electric bikes rule Barcelona’s streets

Article by Felix Kostersitz

If you’re walking around in Barcelona you’ll see a new, tiny vehicle dominating the bike paths and pedestrian areas. “Patinetes electrics” (electric bikes) are a new way for Barcelonians to swiftly move through heavy traffic. Especially for those who have to go to work or school during rush hour, the patinetes electricos serve a great purpose. But there are also those who vehemently criticise this innovative transportation method.

Patinetes electricos are baby scooters, which run on battery and many of them have a bicycle seat on it. They don’t differ much from a standard bicycle, they just lack pedals. Over the last two years, the distribution of those electric bikes has increased by 300%. In 2016, companies which produce vehicles for modern mobility (e-bikes, hoverboards, etc) sold up to 40.000 products, 2015 it was just a fifth. According to Paota D’Alvano, employee at “Patinetes Eléctricos BCN”, the hype about the electric bikes is due to their convenience: “Most people love them because they are easy to park – you can park them everywhere, like bikes – you don’t need a licence or anything for it and still they are pretty fast. And you are allowed to use them not just on the cycle paths, but also in the pedestrian areas, which means that you don’t really have to worry about cars, buses or anything else on the street.”

Especially people who cannot reach a daily destination like work or school by walking, make use of the patientes electricos. But also among older people these vehicles are very popular in Barcelona: “It is very suitable for them, especially if they are not able to walk long distances anymore or just want to avoid public transport. It’s like a modern rollator”, adds Paota D’Alvano.

Government tries to push it

In general, there are almost no restrictions to the electric bikes, which can cost up to 550€. People can use it without a driving or motorbike license and do not have to wear a helmet, even though they can get up to 25 or even 30 km/h. One reason why there are hardly restrictions on it is that the government benefits in two ways of the patinetes electricos. Firstly, it is of course economically profitable for the government. Secondly, the electric bikes are environment-friendly and an attempt to fight global warming. “The government really wants to push the patinetes electricos for the future, because they run completely without gas. Just with battery, which you have to charge once in a while”, says Paota D’Alvano. According to her, the battery has to be changed every three years.

Too dangerous for some people

Because the new electric bikes do not run with gas or any engine, the vehicles are very quiet when they are in use. According to Julia, a mother of two kids who lives near the city district Barceloneta, too quiet: “I must say that these bikes are just too dangerous in my eyes. My kids are often playing around near the beach and when they are distracted they have no chance to hear the patinetes electricos. That scares me because they are everywhere in the city already.”

Even though these modern, small electric bikes are environment-friendly and clearly on the rise in Barcelona, not everybody seems to be content with them. But anyways, the patinetes electricos are taking over the streets of Barcelona.