The unresolved relationship between pedestrians, bikes and scooters in Barcelona

Woman's hit-and-run reopens debate on design to include all modes of transportation

3 min
The bike lane on Aragon street, near Passeig de Gràcia, with "el damer".

BarcelonaA pedestrian who wanted to take a taxi on Aragó street in Barcelona, next to Passeig de Gràcia, was hit by a scooter on the bike lane on Monday. The Emergency Medical Service (SEM) transferred the woman, slightly injured, to the Hospital de Sant Pau. The Guardia Urbana has identified the driver of the vehicle, but has not reported it, because it is still investigating the accident and has to determine whether it is responsible for the incident, according to municipal sources. The woman, to access the taxi rank, crossed the bike lane but through an area painted with white squares, called checkerboard. This gives her preference because cyclists and skateboarders have a yield sign. The driver of the electric scooter, who was riding a personal mobility device (PMD) with a seat and motor, crossed while the traffic light at the intersection ahead was green.

Video of the accident

This new accident has reopened the debate on the design of the streets of Barcelona. City Council sources explain that the checkerboard has been painted for more than 10 years on the carriageway of the bike lanes to indicate that pedestrians have priority in this space, which is a passageway and where you can not park. It is an area that is marked to access both taxi ranks and bus stops as well as containers. Before the checkerboard a yield sign is also painted on the road for users of the bike lanes. But this design is not convincing. One of the members of the Bycicle Club of Catalonia, Adrià Arenas, defines it as "wrong and complex" because of the fact that the space mixes pedestrians with a high flow of vehicles -bikes and scooters- next to a taxi rank.

The checkerboard on Felip II street

The spokesman for the Taxi Union of Catalonia, Carlos Fernández, recalls that the taxi rank in Aragó street next to Passeig de Gràcia is not unique, because there is a very similar one in Plaça Sant Gregori Taumaturg. Fernández says that, although the consistory is reluctant to add stops like this, it is the best solution they have found when making bike lanes to preserve an area where you can wait for customers at points that have "a good use". The taxi drivers' spokesman admits the danger that this combination can entail, but adds that in other streets, such as Felip II, they have made raised checkerboards that force bikes and scooters slow down. "We have no choice but to add the stops like this or remove them", says Fernández.

Cyclists are the first to warn of the risk of connecting lanes with sidewalks. "Most bike lane connections are not resolved properly. Bikes are sent to the sidewalks and this interaction and conflict is generated. With a good design, a big part of the problem would be solved", laments Arenas. He gives as an example that the bike lanes that are central -that pass through the middle of the cars, as for example in the Paral-lel or Passeig de Sant Joan- can only be entered or exited by circulating through pedestrian crossings. "The incivility that is attributed to bicycles is due to the infrastructure itself", he says. He also questions some lanes that pass over the sidewalks, such as in Sagrera and from Plaça Espanya to Ciutat de la Justícia, which share the space with pedestrians.

Arenas is in favour of revising the cycle lanes, which are not very wide, with checkerboards to throw rubbish that do not allow rubbish to be thrown without occupying the traffic area. He also calls for traffic lights to take bicycles into account and not to give priority to motor vehicles.

30 scooters fined every day

According to the Barcelona City Council, last year 478 motorised PMDs were involved in accidents, without specifying how many were in a checkerboard. But the deputy mayor of Security, Albert Batlle, defends the work of the Guardia Urbana, which in the first three months of this year has fined nearly 30 scooter drivers every day: from January until now 2,600 complaints have been made regarding PMDs, which include electric scooters. "The sanctioning and surveillance activity has increased", says Batlle, after the consistory began the year with a campaign to intensify the fines to scooters. In 2020, 8,500 PMD drivers were sanctioned and in the first quarter the number of complaints has continued to rise. Batlle has avoided assessing the accident on Monday and has said that the Guardia Urbana is "specialised" in investigating traffic accidents.

"The new formulas of mobility in Barcelona and in any big city are causing new forms of accidents. We are concerned", admits the deputy mayor, who recognizes that they will have to continue "insisting". Batlle appeals to scooter drivers: "You have to be very aware of what you are doing", because, except for the age limit, you don't need a license. That is why he appeals to civic behavior, "which unfortunately some users do not have", accompanied by the rest of the safety elements of PMDs, such as helmet, insurance and not to exceed 25 km / h speed.