Alex Bikes

Ottawa bike politics.

Leaving Barcelona

Jetlagged, I fell asleep at 4. It was clear that the day’s priority would be to find an alternative to the Warmshowers Worst Case Scenario. But I couldn’t find anything on my iPhone, so prepared to bike to an Internet cafe. The are remarkably hard to find online. So I spent a big part of the day just biking around town.

I sometimes wonder why my hometown of Ottawa can’t be a bit like other places. Barcelona is a way out there when it comes to urban planning, and in a way we could never quite achieve.

Barcelona seems like a great night town; it would be difficult. To find dinner before 8pm, and people start to come out of their apartments. Here’s something I saw that was great: a carless boulevard with a combination of bike route, outdoor cafe and playground. If you wants to, you could have a beer with some friends while watching your kids. Or just shoot the shut with other retirees on the public benches. Given that this is right up against the typical 5 story apartments, I imagine these are locals just hanging out with their neighbours. It is really nice, actually.

The sad thing in all of this is that we’ll never get there. I don’t mean to be discouraging, but the chances of Ottawa getting even some of this is small. Moving one lane of parking to encourage active transportation takes an act of God.

Transportation management is a pastime for me, and Barcelona is an interesting study. That the bike lanes just randomly ended reminded me of the NCC. But nobody seemed to care. I just did as the locals did: bike on the sidewalk or road when necessary. Nobody cared.

I’d have thought a big city would have huge traffic jams, but I never saw them. It was notable how calm everyone was. European cities are always remarkable in how much better they deal with modal choice, but Barcelona’s residents’ lack of motorist entitlement and their flexibility meant a different level of cooperation that made it all just work. There’s some TDM magic here.

I will enjoy this aspect of the trip, but I won’t be able to take it home with me.

I biked past La Sagrada Familia, but couldn’t bear competing with the other tourists for an internal tour. The architecture and sculpture was literally awesome, no words or my photos will explain this to you. This is worth going back to.

I caught the train at 5pm to Figueres, a small town that gets me closer to the French Pyrenees. I met Edgar on the train, a fellow touring cyclist. He felt confident of an independent Catalonian state. He warned me that my tires would be too narrow.

There was also an entertaining fistfight. It is surprising what a large portion of personal violence I have witnessed is in other countries an never really understood. Drunken fights on the Helsinki public transit system or embarrassing attacks on feckless Tokyo sushi bar owners come to mind.

And I got to the Hotel Los Angeles. Not quite the Beverley Hilton, but also lacking the permanence of the Hotel California. And I had the first progressive shower of the trip: I felt cleaner at the end than at the start.

I met Claudia and Fred, cyclists at the tail end of their tour from their home in Bavaria to Barcelona.

And when I fell asleep, there wasn’t even the faintest hint of rotting meat.


One response to “Leaving Barcelona

  1. brian from Ottawa August 21, 2011 at 2:46 pm

    Here in San Francisco I find most of the commuter cyclists well behaved. I noted at 6:00am all the bikes had flashing front and rear lights. Unfortunately with lots of cyclists comes other problems, such as theft. I noted a mid level bike with solid axles (not quick release wheels) u-locked to frame and rear u-locked to solid iron work around tree. Cars and cyclists appear to co-exists in some sort of peaceful acceptance of each other. Just a few days observance, a longer time might prove different. BTW San Fran is similar in pop. to Ottawa and taxis and other vehicles look to “share” the roadways with all other forms of transportation. And no supersized eighteen wheelers going through the downtown, all transport is 3 ton trucks.

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