Seville - ©jiangkeren, (cropped image)

Cycle-Lane Network Seville

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Main actors

City Government

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Project area

Whole City/Administrative Region

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Ongoing since 2006/01

The main step towards a bicycle friendly infrastructure in the City of Seville was a city-wide cycle-lane network.

The City Council of Seville recognized the excessive use of motor vehicles and the environmental consequences. As a solution for this problem, the city council developed different strategies to promote bicycles as a desirable mean of transportation. The main step towards a bicycle friendly infrastructure was a city-wide Cycle-Lane Network. It provides connection between all relevant sites of the city. Specific instruments, which helped implement the cycle-lane, were the creation of the Bicycle Master Plan and the Pedestrian and Cyclist Traffic Ordinance. Support came from the city council to make the cycle-lane affordable. Outside groups also provided financial support.

The Cycle-Lane Network in Seville is a best practice example because Seville used to be a car-centred city, not comparable to cities like Copenhagen or Amsterdam who have been famous for their positive attitude towards alternative forms of transportation for a long time. The Urban Planning Office of the City Council of Seville, together with different departments from the regional and national government, and a cyclists association, managed to create the conditions to motivate citizens to use bicycles ten times more than before initiating the policy. The Cycle-Lane Network is based on the results of citizens’ participation and is recognized internationally.

Sustainable Development Goals

Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation
Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts
Seville, Spain

Size and population development
2011: 704.980 (source: City of Seville)

Main functions
economic and financial center in the South of Spain ; cultural center

Main industries / business
chemical, energy, metal, food and transport industries

Political structure
Mayor and City Council

Administrative structure
11 districts and 108 neighbourhoods

On the one hand, the dominant car culture and missing bicycle infrastructure in Seville caused congestion and pollution. On the other hand, it prevented some 80,000 potential users from taking the bike as a form of transport, as studies revealed. To allow those potential users to cycle around the city, conditions had to be changed, and separate bicycle-lanes had to be built, which would reduce the danger on the streets for cyclists. In 2000, for example, only 0.2% of all trips were taken with the bicycles in the city of Seville. The average citizen in Seville would not ride a bike to get to work or school until the Cycle-Lane Network was implemented.

The overall objective of the Cycle-Lane Network is the establishment of changes in mobility within the city by creating a new infrastructure for bicycles. The specific objective, resulting from this overall objective, is to include an assigned budget for constructing cycle-lanes in the Urban Plan of the City of Seville. Cycle-lances were planned to be built city-widely and should be usable for day-to-day journeys between residential areas. 

The target group of the Cycle-Lane Network are the potential bicycle users identified in the previously mentioned study and all other citizens who are dependable on any means of transportation, especially previous motorists.

Led by the Urban Planning Office of the City Council of Seville, the design and building of the cycling infrastructure in Seville started in 2006 by establishing the Cycle-Lane Network as a first step. On March, 15 of 2007, the Bicycle Master Plan was approved, which was valid until 2011. Another important step was the implementation of a public bicycle system called “Sevici”. In 2009, the Network of Cities for Bicycles was founded and later that year Seville was chosen to be the location of the Velo-City event in 2011 by the European Cyclists Federation. The Municipal Sports Institute of Seville regularly offers the March on Bike to all interested cyclists of all ages to promote cycling in Seville continuously.

The most successful instrument, when turning Seville into a cycle-city, might have been the manifold inclusion of citizens, which led to a strong positive response of the population to the policy, and made a cultural change towards a more sustainable city possible. When asking the citizens during assemblies on participatory budgets of 2003, the most voted-on proposal on how to improve their district was the construction of safe bicycle-lanes. During the implementation of the Cycle-Lane Network instruments were created to keep the citizens up-to-date on the reforms and allow them to participate: an exhibition touring through the city’s civic centres, several Bike Weeks, a Guide for Cyclists, and a clearly structured informative website. Additionally, many stakeholders became involved after the Civic Bicycle Committee was formed. Not only municipal representatives responsible for transportation issues, but also cyclist and pedestrian associations, the two Sevillan universities, and companies from the transportation sector form part of this Committee. By analysing new infrastructure projects, organizing events, petitions, initiatives, and presenting complaints the committee fulfils an advisory function for the Urban Planning Office of the City Council of Seville.

The maintenance and construction of the main cycle-lanes and the installation of bicycle parking areas are financed by the City of Seville, which also provides technical support. The State funded the construction of the secondary cycle network and the Regional Government helps financially to promote bicycle use and parts of the Bicycle Master Plan. External actors, like municipal public companies and the universities of Seville, contribute technical support. During the whole process costs are kept as low as possible to show that a Cycle-Lane Network is accessible to a broad social spectrum and not only to regions with high levels of financial capacities.

Personnel resources by the City Council are crucial for coordinating the different sectors and agents, who participate in the creation of the Cycle-Lane Network because different social, economic, environmental and institutional policies contribute to the successful implementation of the Cycle-Lane Network.

Evaluations of the Cycle-Lane Network show that the comfortable, separated bikeways have an average width of 2.5 metres and connect the suburban area with the city centre with the length of 120 km. After implementing the Cycle-Lane Network, bicycle traffic now forms 7% of all city traffic. The City of Seville expects this number to increase up to 15% in 2015. The bicycle sharing system of Seville “Sevici” provides 2.000 bikes with rentals increasing constantly. A result of this could be that car trips to the historic city centre have declined from 25,000 a day to 10,000 and the daily bike journeys have increased from 2,500 in 2002 and 6,600 in 2006 to 68,000 in 2009.

One can imagine the positive impacts of the Cycle-Lane Network on the environment. Because 7% of the city’s traffic is bicycle trips, the result of the new infrastructure of Seville is over 1,000 tonnes of CO2 of energy savings on petrol. This would equal planting 30,000 trees. However, the negative impact on the automobile industry cannot be denied. Other policy fields impacted by the Cycle-Lane Network are the health system, because the personal health of the cyclists’ benefits from the Cycle-Lane Network. The bike system also supports the economy; the businesses on the cycle lanes are thriving.

In the beginning internal and external barriers threatened the success of the Cycle-Lane Network. The external resistance was discussed in the media on a daily basis. Pedestrians were irritated by having to share space and drivers felt that the distribution of space was incorrect. When relocating or removing car parking spaces, initial opposition was severe. Local businesses wondered if customers would still come on their bike instead of with their cars. Internally, resistance was offered through all departments of the City Council of Seville. To face internal resistance, a municipal operations coordination body representing all involved departments and a contact person for each municipal department and relevant company were appointed.

To face external resistance, many public forums and workshops were held to give each citizen the chance to contribute ideas to the development of the Cycle-Lane Network. Over all, both solutions to overcome the previously mentioned barriers were successful.

One crucial condition for implementing a Cycle-Lane Network similar to the one in Seville is the integration of the policy within the city’s regulatory and budgetary framework to guarantee a strong legal basis, even if additional financial aid by other actors is needed. Another vital requirement is the creation of a complete and continuous cycle-lane network. Although the City of Seville only took a short time to construct the whole system, road safety and friction with pedestrians and vehicles was mostly avoided. This was only possible by constantly analysing studies about cycle mobility, daily flows, potential user numbers, and environmental effects of the cycle-lanes and taking the results into consideration when improving the bicycle infrastructure. Considering these lessons, any other city with similar characteristics could adopt the Sevillian Cycle-Lane Network if its population and relevant political actors show support.

Before developing the Cycle-Lane Network, representatives of the City Council of Seville visited Barcelona, San Sebastian, Lyon, Paris, Copenhagen, and Amsterdam to learn from their experiences. According to David Muñoz de la Torre, the Director of Seville’s Bike Program, the Netherlands were particularly inspiring for the design of the Cycle-Lane Network in Seville. A public bicycle system similar to the one in Seville will be implemented in Valencia after Seville provided the city with administrative and technical information and documentation. The Spanish cities of Zaragoza, Badajoz, Santiago, and Cadiz partly adopted the Sevillian policy into their transportation system. 

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Camille Toggenburger
Berlin, Germany

Camille Toggenburger

Individual | Community and Content Manager | urban sustainability exchange

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