De viaje a Lisboa

A principios de este año, he ido a visitar una de las ciudades que siempre me han atraído y generado curiosidad: Lisboa. Capital de Portugal, Lisboa tiene una luz increíble, un clima mite y es lo bastante pequeña para que no necesites un coche. Pero también es una ciudad con cuestas “imposibles”, espacios pequeños dentro y fuera de las casas y un viento que cuando sopla, sopla de verdad. Serán estas últimas características algo limitantes para la difusión de la bici como medio de transporte? Entre las primeras cosas que miro, cuando visito una ciudad que no conozco, son la limpieza de las calles y el número de personas que se mueven en bici. Me permiten hacerme una idea rápida de la gestión de la ciudad, de cómo serán los lugares donde iré a comer y, en ciertas formas, de la gente que voy a conocer. Será el conocido espejismo de las profecías que se auto-cumplen, pero raramente salgo con sorpresas al final del viaje. En el caso de Lisboa, había algo que no cuadraba. A pesar de su fascino un poco decadente y de su aire coqueto, que mi mente asocia con fixies, viejas bicis de ciudad y folding de diseño, de bicicletas pocas, o mejor dicho casi nada. Los dos primeros obstáculos en lo que he pensado, las cuestas y el espacio reducidos, no se sostienen: las primeras están en muchas ciudades donde las bicis abundan (San Francisco por encima de todas), y hablando de los segundos no hay hueco en lo que no quepa una bici plegable. Para saber más del tema, hemos hablado con Samuel de Bike Pop (www.bikepop.pt), que nos ha dedicado varios minutos de su tiempo en la acogedora tienda en Largo do Intendente. Por comodidad hemos usado un idioma que los dos dominamos, el Inglés, y por respeto no he traducido las respuestas de Samuel, que tenéis abajo exactamente tal y cómo nos las ha dado:
– Hi Samuel, welcome to BiciAndTheCity
It’s a pleasure to share my experience as a daily commuter with you.

– Historically, were bikes part of Lisbon’s landscape?
Although not as much as in other Portuguese cities like Aveiro, the bicycle was a common mean of individual cargo transportation in Lisbon, carrying milk, flower, bread, coal and even groceries. People also used them for riding around throughout plain areas, pushing when climbing was needed.

– How can you describe bicycle’s role in Lisbon’s mobility, at the moment?
The history across europe has been repeating itself regarding the exponential growth of cars deterring bicycle users. In northern countries like the Netherlands the car became such a dangerous machine that, along an oil crisis in late ’70s, the paradigm of vehicles changed dramatically towards the rebirth of a sustainable bike culture. The change has been replicated recently due to diverse reasons such as the pollution in Paris, accidents in London or eco-driven mentalities from students in Barcelona. In Lisbon the financial crisis and an increasing awareness towards the real cost of a car are the main causes for exchanging cars for bicycles.

– Does the lack of infrastructures (compare to others European Capitals) affect the potential number of new urban bikers?
Definitely. Lisbon has been making an effort to promote bikes, but lacks matureness like in Munich, Amsterdam or London. But there is a double paradox behind the “infrastructure” issue. Cities have been promoting cycle paths as the standard reasoning to increase bike usage, but – statistically speaking – safer and mature cities don’t really need them since it is the bike awareness (and not its segregation) that really promotes safety! Curiously, bike newbies adopt the cycle paths as the preferable way to go from A to B since they are intuitively safer, but the irregularities that these infrastructures have (sudden endings, dangerous road crossings and elbow crossings, intense pedestrian usage) do cause severe accidents. So bike paths promote the bike usage for the wrong reasons, but they work regarding getting people riding!

– How do you see bikes in Lisbon, within next five years?
The bike trend is changing and increasing, and not long ago riders were connoted with poverty or foreigner “cheapskaters”, but more and more people are starting to use the bicycle without really “needing” to spare money. It’s just a change in the paradigm towards a more sustainable, ecological and healthy mean of transportation. People don’t look at cars thinking about “status” or “quality of life” any more, they think in “traffic”, “fuel costs”, “pollution” and “obesity”. And we live in an information era! How come people still drive their cars to the local gym? Where’s the reasoning behind driving kids to school because they can be hit by… cars? Where on earth buying a cheap house in the suburbs and driving everyday to work costs less – long term speaking – than to live IN the city and just ride everywhere?

– Thanks a lot for your time, hope to see you soon in Barcelona!
Curiously it was on a visit to Barcelona that I realized I could improve the quality of my life using a bicycle. I tried a folding bike [a Brompton] and it was clear that I could spare more than a daily hour, replacing the car (15 minutes from my house to the local train station), the subway in Lisbon (another 15 minutes from the train station to work) and all the way back home. I also spared in gas, car maintenance and the subway monthly pass. All this in a really fun way, since I managed to experience Lisbon much more. I couldn’t go back to a daily “metal can” even if I wanted… the bike took me to a higher level of life!
– Wow, nice to read that about Barcelona! Thanks again, and keep riding!

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