My bike was stolen, so instead of getting another one (which I’d either have to carry up to the attic every night or which would be stolen too) I decided to give Barcelona’s Bicing a try. The official deal was 30€ per annum (now 35€) and no usage charges for rides of less than 30 minutes. What actually happens is rather different.
Problem number 1 came on 5/1. I took a bike out at Riera Alta, but it was broken so I docked it again immediately. My histórico de uso shows that I was billed for €231, but the corresponding PDF shows 0€. I wrote and asked them to reassure me that I wouldn’t be billed for the higher sum, and got a nice message back saying, “Oh, of course not!” but no explanation as to how their data became screwed, or how they intend to fix it.
As you can see from the histórico de uso screengrab above, problem number 2 started today at 16:38 and is still ongoing. I took a bike from station 402 on Passeig de Colom and docked it correctly – unable to remove bike, red light showing – at station 187 opposite the Guardia Civil on Carrer de Sant Pau.
20 minutes later, after a coffee with someone, I tried to take a bike from station 415 but the system informed me that I still had one in use. I called incidencias, who said that they couldn’t help me if I didn’t know the number of the station where I had left the bike. I trotted back to 187, called again and was informed that they couldn’t help me if I couldn’t tell them my NIE.
And so I trotted all the way back to Gracia, called again, and was told they couldn’t really help me if I didn’t know the number of the bike (the PDF demonstrates that the system correlates user and bike numbers, but they don’t seem to know that). And anyway, it was all my fault.
So now I’m being billed at 3.70€ an hour with a final extra charge of 180€ due at 16:38 tomorrow, making a total of 270€. That’s assuming they don’t work out what went wrong before then, but if money’s that easy to make then why should they bother?
The system is clearly poorly programmed, but I wonder whether the docking stations haven’t been hacked. Both problems I’ve had were in the Raval, which is scamville for up and coming artists. Are bikes being stolen and exported to Tetuan or Chandigarh?
It has to be said that the rest of the service is extremely crap. The main problem is availability of bikes and docking space. People prefer to cycle downhill towards the sea, and to cycle to the shops but not back, but no account seems to be taken of this in the redistribution model, and it’s common to find no functioning bikes within walking distance in a middle-class, hillside, biking neighbourhood and no docking space downtown. So for a journey that should take 15 minutes you need to add a substantial margin at either end for finding and parking. The bikes themselves are fine – as long as they’re not broken, and they’re not broken as much as I expected.
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— I haven’t brought the component I need. I’ll come back tomorrow, but I’ll bill you now for today. — But you
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