What if we really wanted to reduce pollution and traffic?

barcelona-parking2-300x224I know we don’t care that much, but what if we really wanted to reduce pollution, reduce oil consumption, improve the traffic across town especially during rush hour, and make parking more available and cheaper? What if we really wanted that? Well, if we did, then all we would have to do is learn from other cities, like Barcelona.

More motorcycles

If there’s one thing, which is a waste of time, it’s spending time in traffic jams. I’m happy I move around on my bike most of the time to avoid crazy standstills. But with so many cars in US cities it’s often a challenge to get around by bike.

In the Spanish coastal city Barcelona it looks like they fond a solution (or more precisely, a solution found itself) that is very simple: more motorcycles, less cars! And to encourage this they made it way easier and cheaper to get out of the car en hop on a bike! If US cities would simplify and make it more affordable to ride a motorcycle, it will definitely encourage many to leave the car and use a motorcycle instead.

Free parking

A car takes as much space as 4-6 motorcycles to park. If we just let motorcycles share the parking space of a car and park for free, that alone would be an amazing incentive to ride motorcycles a lot more. If we wanted to incentive it even more we would reserve some parking spaces for motorcycles. In some cities there are parking spaces reserved to electric vehicles (often empty).

Another great thing in Barcelona is that parking a bike is basically free and you are allowed to park anywhere you want. Even at sidewalks and pedestrian paces like squares motorcycles and scooters are lined up and no one complains about it. Also spots for cars are free parking places for motorcycles which are a great deal. Parking motorcycles in sidewalks is common practice in most of Europe and that is really smart as it leaves even more space available to park cars.

Lane sharing

One of the greatest advantages of motorcycles is the versatility. Letting motorcycles share the lane (pass between and around the cars and other motorcycles on the same lane) is one of the greatest things one can do. That requires changing state law, and currently in America only California allows to do it. But it makes such a great difference, especially on hot days when traffic is slow.

In Barcelona traffic bikers have lots of freedom, at least they behave like that. By law they are allowed to zigzag between stationary traffic at the approach to a traffic light or intersection to reach the head of the stop line.

Helmet laws

One of the things I like the most about USA is that I don’t need to wear a helmet in most states. Unfortunately the European Union prohibits not wearing one. If wearing a helmet is not obligatory the use of motorcycles will definitely increase. That is what happened in every jurisdiction where helmet laws were lifted or relaxed. After they scrapped that obligation in Florida, the motorcycle use went up by 10 percent!

Less fuel, less carbon

If Barcelona is much greener with all those bikes in favor of cars, I’m not sure of. Fact is that motorcycles are way more fuel-efficient and emit less of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. Also people don’t stand as long in traffic as they do when they use their cars so the bike is less polluting.

Another fact is that motorcycle manufacturing requires thousands fewer pounds of raw materials than automobiles. They require less fossil fuel, so they require less energy to pull that fossil fuel out of the ground. They use fewer chemicals and oils than cars.

And motorcycles produced today are 90% cleaner in California than they were 30 years ago. It could be a good idea to invest in greener motorcycles, but while just about 2 percent of the American population rides a bike it’s not interesting for the industry. So an increase of using motorcycles might also work to make them greener.

Well… of course, we won’t do any of it. In America we are painfully stuck to our old, conventional devices and we don’t have time for intelligent solutions for anything.


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  1. Or go one step further and look at cities like shanghai. Electric motor scooters everywhere! Thus charging stations everywhere.. And as you noted: these small vehicles do not need that much energy. So charging them every few days, or better, replacing the battery with a charged one every few days is no problem. Smartest way to get around in a city besides a good public transportation system. Imo.