“BiciHub aims to make Barcelona a more inclusive, sustainable and ecological city”

Interview with Montse R. Faidella, the President of BiciHub, on mobility, bicycles and constructing the city we want to live in.

17/10/2022 - 09:26 h - Mobility and transport Ajuntament de Barcelona

Interview with Montse R. Faidella, the President of BiciHub, on mobility, bicycles and constructing the city we want to live in.

How has the use of bicycles evolved in Barcelona?

In terms of infrastructure, the network of bicycle lanes is being expanded and improved. There is still a lot to be done, but our experience as bicycle users has improved.

Environmental impact is a matter of great concern in Barcelona. At Bicihub, we see that the general public has a greater understanding and awareness, although it’s clear there is still a long way to go: we have to reduce the use of private vehicles, encourage the use of zero-impact mobility, such as walking, or more sustainable forms, like bicycles and public transport. All of this is essential environmentally, in order to improve the quality of the air we breathe, but the position of the Bicihub organisations is that it is also essential socially. Because recovering space that had previously been used for driving and parking private vehicles means that it can now be used by people, so that things can happen there, so we can build connections, so our kids can play and people can interact.

Why are bicycles important and how can we transform our current city model?

Bicycles are important because they are an ideal form of transport for short and medium distances inside the city, as well as making it possible to use motor vehicles less. All of this is in tune with the fight to improve our climate in terms of the climate emergency, emerging gases and CO₂. Travelling by bicycle means that everyone can contribute to this struggle, through sustainable mobility, so that we can have a healthier city. Bicycles don’t pollute, either environmentally or with noise, and they have a low impact in terms of production and waste products. They therefore contribute to a more habitable city model that is better adapted to life and to people. It is also a perfect model for intermodality, i.e. combining its use with other forms of transport.

What do you think a more bicycle-friendly city would be like?

A much more bicycle-friendly city is one that has a lot more safe infrastructures, so that people are comfortable about cycling around the city. Another thing is that it would have safe parking for bicycles, so there would be no problems with theft. It’s obvious that the city is designed for cars, and this perspective has to change because, in reality, within the city it’s much quicker and more efficient to walk, or travel by bicycle or public transport.

What role would last-mile cycle logistics play here?

Last-mile cycle logistics could play a key role in coordinating a more environmentally-responsible method of transport and distribution for the territory, which does not occupy the city’s streets and squares nor pollute, as private fossil-fuel vehicles do.

In this regard, last year in BiciHub, thanks to the municipal Reinforcing the SSE subsidies, we promoted a last-mile cycle-logistics project: community cargo bikes which the general public and organisations can use after attending a training course, which we hold regularly for people in the area, and especially here, in the district of Sant Martí. Cargo bikes can also be used by requesting the service with a rider.

This is a local, community resource-sharing model that favours the collective amortisation of vehicles, helps to reduce the use of private vehicles and enables people to share practices, ways of doing things and knowledge. In order to develop this service we have forged alliances with various SSE and district organisations, so it is a good example of inter-cooperation.

We started offering the service last year, and we have noted a significant growth in its use by organisations, and not only from this district. And the training courses for learning how to ride the cargo bikes empower organisations and local residents, who are able to integrate this new tool into their everyday lives or their professional activities.

Apart from infrastructure, what can we do to foster this way of using bicycles?

A lot of education. We need to educate people from childhood, because when they adopt the habit of using bicycles instead of cars as children, and see the benefits, they have it hard-wired as adults. We also need to really educate the general public. There are a lot of people who don’t know the current cycling regulations and there are accidents and bad practices that make people unsafe on bicycles.

And within this context of fostering the use of bicycles, we have BiciHub. What is it, exactly?

BiciHub is a collective project that aims to turn Barcelona into a more inclusive, caring and ecological city, which places special emphasis on promoting sustainable mobility. Which is all part of the social and solidarity economy (SSE). BiciHub was founded and created in a participative process involving lots of organisations from the local area, from the SSE and mobility, which are its three cornerstones.

As a hub, we aim to bring together all sustainable-mobility organisations, not just those involving bicycles, such as Som Mobilitat, with electric cars, the Association for Promoting Public Transport (PTP) and other environmental and local organisations.

What services and activities do you offer?

As services, we offer community Cargo Bikes, which we spoke of before, but also the self-repair workshop, something that aims to bring the world of bicycles to all local residents, to empower them and keep their bicycles in good working order. Because a bicycle in good working order means fewer accidents later on, because anything can happen with a badly-maintained bike. And knowing how to maintain our bicycles means that they have a longer life, and we believe that is completely in line with the circular economy and responsible consumerism. I’m still using the same bike I had when I started university!

We also have a shared office for BiciHub organisations. Each organisation has a workplace, some classrooms they can use and some services, but they are also part of BiciHub and help it to grow. Currently, there are four organisations in the shared office, with a total of 13 work stations, all occupied. We also offer space for occasional uses, such as the Espai Mario García Fernández, in memory of the Mensakas company, where we hold assemblies, talks, events, exhibitions and much more. And then we have two classrooms that people can also use, for example, for meetings or training courses.

We offer guided tours and open days, aimed at schools, organisations, associations and the general public. These visits are important for education and fostering the use of bicycles and sustainable mobility.

Lastly, BiciHub promotes informative activities to publicise initiatives and projects that are part of the Social and Solidarity Economy: on subjects such as responsible consumerism, the circular economy, energy transition and, of course, sustainable mobility.

And what kind of training is available at BiciHub?

Above all, courses that empower people, especially in regard to specific groups, and for organisations, courses linked to sustainable mobility, mechanics, all from a feminist and intersectional perspective. For example, we regularly do courses on learning how to ride cargo bikes, and we also do courses on mechanics, aimed at women and non-binary people or for members of a Bicibus. This year, we have also carried out two series of courses on non-violent communication and courses to prevent sexual harassment in organisations.

How is BiciHub linked to the values and principles of the Social and Solidarity Economy? How do you network in the ESSBCN2030?

BiciHub has been aligned with the ESSBCN2030 strategy since the very beginning, as our main line of work is sustainable mobility using bicycles. We promote debate forums through mobility, with the aim of supporting conscious, transformative consumption, we are working to reduce the gender gap in the mechanics and mobility sector, we showcase the importance of the SSE in the district, as well as in the Metropolitan Area, through our training and informative activities, and especially through the open services that we offer the general public, such as the self-repair workshop or community cargo bikes.

Most of the 21 member organisations of BiciHub belong to the Social and Solidarity Economy. Furthermore. as an association, BiciHub uses collective governance mechanisms, such as its assembly, or the themed committees. And in regard to transparency, we share documents such as our statutes and assembly minutes on our website.

At an internal level, we opt for SSE suppliers, and where possible, try to ensure they are local suppliers. We also opt for inter-cooperation in developing activities and services. We also prioritise care for people that form part of BiciHub, in aspects like work-life balance.

Lastly, the Can Picó building was reconstructed following energy-efficiency criteria, and we foster systems that minimise waste and favour reuse.

What support do you receive from the public administrations?

The City Council’s Department of Social and Solidarity Economy and Sustainable Food Services and the Department of Social and Solidarity Economy have supported us throughout the process of creating and launching the association. They have been supporting us from the very beginning and connected us with Mobility and Territory. Since the first year, we have a two-year agreement with Mobility and Social and Solidarity Economy, and we are in talks to renew that biannual agreement. It is very important to have the support of the Administration at this time, as the increase in expenditure in regard to supplies and the building means we cannot afford to invest in activities as much as we would like.

What would you say to someone who has never ridden a bicycle?

When you start your day riding a bicycle, everything seems more positive. It gives you a lot of freedom, and the city is becoming more and more suitable for travelling by bicycle. We have to have mutual respect, especially between cyclists and pedestrians, and to take a lot of care with motor vehicles. We can all coexist, but we must be aware that we are not the only people on the road.