I just came back from the Catalonia region of eastern Spain, where we rented a car and roamed through beautiful Mediterranean villages.
In Barcelona, I noticed some people riding red bikes. This is actually called Bicing, a big thing right now. During 2007, over 100 bike stations has been constructed in the city, strategically located near metro and bus stations. Once you get the “Bicing card”, which is 24 euro each year, you can pick up bikes at the stations and use them for 30 minutes at a time.
Unfortunately, the bikes are only available to residents of Catalonia at this moment, but they will likely be available to tourists in the near future. Read more on their website.
This reminds me of the Lithuanian project a few years back where the mayor of Vilnius launched a bold program. To ease traffic congestion in the city center and getting healthier citizens, 400 orange bikes were placed in the city. No fee was required, just that the bike was properly returned to one of 90 prepositioned racks. One week later, about 300 of them had been stolen and sold on the black market.
While speaking of Barcelona, it’s really bliss to order coffee in Spain. “Un cafè por favor” often defaults to an espresso, instead of the hideous brew served in most other places. It is even possible to order my favorite, Cortado, without anyone asking what it is or even raising an eyebrow. Wonderful.