Cycling in Seville - a success story
November 9, 2018 7:01 AM   Subscribe

Seville was able to boost daily cycling in the city from around 6,000 to over 70,000 journeys. It did this in just under four years. The planner Manuel Calvo recently shared some of the secrets behind this success.
posted by Stark (13 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
The trick, Calvo said, is to set the expectation that public input will determine how to add bike lanes to a street, not whether to add them.

A trick I wish more public projects would follow. Don't ask the public whether we should do the right thing, decide to do it and then seek feedback on how best to implement the plan. That's what public service should be about, making the necessary decisions, then fitting them as smoothly as possible to the public's the other needs.
posted by gusottertrout at 7:16 AM on November 9, 2018 [15 favorites]

“We got rid of nearly 5,000 parking spots for cars in the whole city,” Calvo said.

I think there would be open insurrection if the local city councils tried that around here. In fact, our city is currently reviewing zoning policies - for the most densely populated city in New England, they're still proposing that restaurants must provide twice as much car parking as bike parking (1 per 500 sq. ft. versus 1 per 1000 sq. ft.). Neighboring suburbs have fought against repaving horribly potholed roads because they might get bike lanes painted on them.

Good on them for realizing that slow piecemeal infrastructure development isn't terribly effective in increasing ridership numbers.
posted by backseatpilot at 7:28 AM on November 9, 2018 [4 favorites]

To complete the 5,000 parking spots quote:
“We got rid of nearly 5,000 parking spots for cars in the whole city,” Calvo said. “I can give you this figure now. For a while it was secret.”

“The media would ask us,” he recalled, smiling. “I’d say ‘Oh, we didn’t calculate that.'”
posted by clawsoon at 7:43 AM on November 9, 2018 [3 favorites]

One prominent local journalist attacked the protected bike lane network as “useless,” saying that because so few Sevillanos biked at the time, Sevillanos never would.

"Why bother building a bridge?! I don't see anybody swimming across the river."
posted by entropone at 7:54 AM on November 9, 2018 [21 favorites]

“We got rid of nearly 5,000 parking spots for cars in the whole city,” Calvo said.

I don't know how big Spanish parking spots usually are, but a very conservative estimate suggests they reclaimed 33,000 m2, which is about 1.5 Manhattan city blocks. That's a pretty good chunk of real estate.
posted by jedicus at 8:08 AM on November 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

Seville is a great example to municipalities around the globe! And let's not forget that the decrease in pollution and increase in positive health effects associated with cycling makes any investment in cycling infrastructure a net benefit for society. A BCR of up to 24 to 1 according to some studies.
posted by St. Oops at 8:19 AM on November 9, 2018 [2 favorites]

My city has an approximately $30m sidewalk budget this year (same as them, except we get that much *often*), but we get nothing like this, because much of it is is spent on land acquisition costs, not construction costs. It gets us about 10 miles of transit sidewalk (10ft wide, not those standard 3.5 ft wide things).

They got 50miles (80km) out of approximately the same costs. They were able to use on-street parking, which is not really all that common except in major US cities and mostly in the older, moderately dense parts at that. So I'd add a takeaway that is politically feasible in much of the US: Build on-street parking as step #1. Many roads are oversized anyways - build on-street parking to downsize them.

I do think that other choices like "Bike lane designs were shaped by public input – but only after officials made clear that doing nothing was not an option " and 'build it quickly' are great advice and should be done as every part of many municipal projects. There is much infrastructure that a city builds with no public input (including off-street parking regulations) so I don't see why bike lanes (Y/N?) should be any different.

I'd also add that they obviously consider bikes to be transit, and not just exercise. Our city bike-trail design group only recently started feeling this way, so much of what was designed in the past doesn't go anywhere useful.
posted by The_Vegetables at 8:34 AM on November 9, 2018 [4 favorites]

I don't think a comparison with Oklahoma City is very relevant. Although their populations are comparable, Seville has a land area of 54 sq mi, while OKC has a land area of 620 sq mi (just the city proper, not counting suburbs). The hurdles against getting a good biking infrastructure are just way higher in OKC, though some progress is being made.
posted by Quonab at 9:16 AM on November 9, 2018 [2 favorites]

I don't think a comparison with Oklahoma City is very relevant.

I agree with that, but there are actually many cities in the US that are roughly the same size as Seville, have money, have decent density, and have good weather for biking, but have low bike (really alternative transit to the car) mode share. And even Oklahoma City has a core, probably not much larger than 50 sq miles like Seville, where many improvements can be made to increase mode share. Yes, OKC has to share with the other 570 sq miles making it more difficult, but things can be done.
posted by The_Vegetables at 9:34 AM on November 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

Awesome story, especially the part about not building 10km/year for 8 years, but building all 80km at once. If the logistical and financial means are there, the benefits of having the full cycling infrastructure in place immediately are huge for motivating use -- and as the article claims, that lets the politicians claim a win in the next election cycle, too. Thanks for sharing!
posted by So You're Saying These Are Pants? at 9:45 AM on November 9, 2018 [2 favorites]

After watching my mayor cancel bike lane projects and cave to people who value parking over safety, this makes me weep.
posted by RakDaddy at 11:11 AM on November 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

Around here bike paths are super popular, but even so the locals tend to have foaming fits if they think one single parking space might be lost. This is a tough one to get past.
posted by elizilla at 1:31 PM on November 9, 2018

My own city has a mixed record. It has done some smart things, putting relatively underused 4-lane roads on "road diets" that turn them into 2 lanes plus a chicken lane and two bike lanes. But it's also produced some bikes lanes with astonishingly bad designs, and has caved to neighborhood pressure not to designate certain roads as bike facilities that are already de-facto bike highways. The city has a long history of requiring a lot of parking for business, but they do seem to be getting over that, and have even taken away a little street parking for cars in high-traffic areas to create street parking for bikes.
posted by adamrice at 5:22 PM on November 9, 2018

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