IMG_1017Even outside of the city, the Gijón, Spain region has a good bike infrastructure.

Although Spain has been in the midst of an economic “crisis” since around 2008 partially as a result of the collapse of the US housing market, they continue to be a leader when it comes to public transportation.  Spain one of the highest number of bike sharing programs in the world, with 132 in 2012 – this is only topped by China, with some 170.  In addition to this, some cities and bike shops offer tourists and other visitors bikes for short-term use.

My girlfriend and I have been on a trip to Spain and Portugal and just spent a few days in Gijón, Asturias, a costal city of some 275,000 inhabitants in the North of Spain.  Gijón (pronounced hee-HONE) is a city where biking is common.  There are bike lanes, bike lights, and a bike-sharing program.  Biking is done for leisure, for advertisement (Just like those trucks with billboards that drive around cities, they had the same with bikes!), and for general transportation needs.  Biking is done by the young and the old, by individuals and by families.  More than any other city I’ve visited in Spain, biking is really a part of the life here.

IMG_0968Bike infrastructure in the city.

As tourists, only in town for a few days, we were lucky to be able to take advantage of such a great biking infrastructure.  Our host let us know about a program that allowed us to get bikes free for a day.  Having been stuck travelling by foot for the past week and a half, it felt amazing to finally be moving faster than 4 miles-per-hour.  While not the greatest bikes, they weren’t bad by any means and came equipped with baskets and a lock.

IMG_0851My girlfriend with her “rented” bike.

IMG_0944My bike’s view of the boardwalk.

One of the best and most efficient ways of knowing a city is biking through it.  While the slowness of walking allows you to really connect with and experience life in a new city, it does take a lot of time to get from point A to point B.  Cars and busses, on the other hand, are aloof and disconnected from city life.  (Subways are another world, entirely.)  Bikes work well because they offer some of the speed of the latter and the intimacy of the former.  You can speed down streets, smelling the food and flowers and garbage and hearing the squabbling and laughing people.

Our bikes allowed us to get a lot more done that day than we would have otherwise.  We got groceries and headed to the beach.  It tends to rain a lot in Gijón, but we were lucky to have weather that permitted swimming in the Atlantic in late September.  Our host told us this was probably the last day that people would be able to swim.  Then we went back home, made lunch, cleaned up, and biked around the old city and out a bit into the country.  At this point it was nearing sundown, so we dropped our bikes off where we got them and headed home.

IMG_1739The author with bike.

Unfortunately, there are no programs for getting free bikes in Champaign-Urbana.  Neutral Cycle, however, does offer affordable short-term and long-term bike rentals.  For each of these, we have a few options available.  I’ll talk a little about our short-term rental options here.  We rent bikes out for the whole day, giving you all morning, evening, and afternoon.  Many places rent by the hour.  I’m now in A Coruña, Spain and the lowest prices we’ve seen here are around $7 an hour for a basic bike, which can really add up.

  1. Basic – If you have a friend visiting and just want a no-frills bike to allow them to get around the city with you, you can get a basic bike for just $20 for 1 day, $35 for 2 days, or $45 for 3 days.  This is the perfect option for visiting family members or friends who won’t be in town for too long, but need an option beyond just busses and walking.
  2. High-End – If you have a nice road bike want to go on a long trip with a visitor, renting a high-end bike will suit your needs.  This is also a great option for residents who might have a bike, but want one that will let them have a more significant biking adventure.  Prices for these bikes range from $50 for 1 day, $95 for 2 days, and $135 for 3 days.
  3. Tandem – Through Big Yellow, you can rent a bicycle built-for-two.  A tandem bike is a great idea for not just visitors, but also residents who want to experience what it’s like to ride around with another on the same bike.  This is also an affordable, healthy, and unique option for people wanting to spend the day with a significant other, or even just a friend, enjoying the scenery in CU.  If you really want to make an impression on someone, take them out on Big Yellow for a picnic in a park and enjoy the beautiful Illinois Autumn.  You can rent Big Yellow for $10 a day or $35 for a whole day.
  4. Cargo – If you want a bike that will be able to carry children or friends (or just cargo), then Neutral has also has options for you.  Cargo bikes can hold up to 400 lbs. and offer a safe means by which you can bike with your children.  If you’re worried about your child’s ability to ride in traffic – or just want to be able to go at a moderate speed with them – cargo bikes allow you to safely do just that.  These are available for $40 a day.  Learn more about our cargo bikes here.

If you’re interested in these, send us a message or come by our Campustown shop to discuss which option is best for you.

In my next post, I’ll talk a little about bike sharing programs in Spain and the feasibility of a similar project in Champaign-Urbana.  I’ll also explain Neutral Cycle’s long-term rental options.  Let us know about any adventures you’ve had on bikes in foreign countries or the different options available there for getting a bike!

DSC_0168Vista of Gijón and surrounding areas.

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