Biking in Barcelona: How to use Viu Bicing

Barcelona is a city of fewer than 2 million, but its streets buzz with the swarming sound of ceaseless activity. Still, it is a bike-friendly town if you’re located within the city limits. There’s a system called Viu Bicing, which functions in conjunction with the municipality to provide a cheap form of transportation throughout Barcelona. Biking in Barcelona is easy, unless your route crosses the heart of the Barri Gotic.I hope this article is useful to you. I’m publishing other articles about Barcelona as well.

Biking in Barcelona with Viu Bicing

Biking in Barcelona

How does Viu Bicing work?

The way Viu Bicing works is simple. You pay the 47 euros (note: you need a Spanish bank credit or debit card to make the purchase), you get a plastic card in the mail, you access the Viu Bicing website to activate the card. Then you approach a Viu Bicing station, pass the card in front of the magnetic reader, and wait until the green screen tells you which slot to remove a bike from. From this point you have 30 minutes to get to another station to deposit the bike before being charged for its use.

How to use Viu Bicing in Barcelona

If you take out a bike and it has some problem with it, you have 3 minutes to return it to a station, then you can pass your card in front of the magnetic reader to take out another bike. If the 3 minutes go by, you have to wait another 10 minutes before the system allows you to remove another Viu Bicing bike.

When you return a bike, you do not have to pass your card in front of the magnetic reader, although it serves as a secondary confirmation. The main thing to look for when you return a bike is that the blinking green light must turn a solid red.

The pros and cons of Viu Bicing Barcelona

Pro: Viu Bicing is Cheap

Viu bicing costs 47 euros for a year of the service. To put that into perspective, a 10-ride on the metro is around 10 euros, and a 50-ride within a span of 30 days costs 39 euros. It comes down to deciding on whether you want to dish out 468 or 47 euros for a year of transport.

Con: You can get automatically charged penalties

If you pass the 30 minute period from the moment you remove the bike, you’re charged 74 cents per 30 minutes overdue. If you surpass 2 hours, you’re charged 4.50. If 24 hours go by and the system has not received your bike, then you will be charged 124 euros.

How much does Viu Bicing cost?

How much does Viu Bicing cost?

Pro: You can bike througout the year

Barcelona enjoys a Mediterranean climate, so the winters are mild. It’s not a rainy city either. The most difficult time for biking in Barcelona with Viu Bicing is from mid-July to the end of August. The heat can be overbearing.

Con: Barcelona’s hills make Viu Bicing a bit difficult

There are some parts of the city that make Viu Bicing difficult or impossible. If you travel from the water northward, the grade is gently sloping, until eventually you hit veritable hills. Horta is the cheaper places to live in the city, but using Viu Bicing there would be much more difficult. You might be interested in reading about the things I wished I knew before living in Barcelona.

Pro: Viu Bicing stations are all over the place within the city

Map of viu bicing bikes in Barcelona

Map of viu bicing bike stations in Barcelona

You can visit the online Viu Bicing map of availability. The little pins represent a bike station. The fuller they are, the higher the read or blue. The fewer there are, the less red or blue. Red represents the regular service while blue represents the electric bikes. Note that you need to purchase the electric bike service separately.

Con: Sometimes the Viu Bicing stations are empty or full

If you use Viu Bicing for biking in Barcelona, you quickly realize the routine you’ll have to follow. I have to leave at no later than 8:10am to get a bike to work. If I leave any later, the station closest to me will be empty. In general, the mornings and weekends see a great exodus of bikes from higher ground to lower. Trying to find a free spot in a Viu Bicing station in the center of town on a Saturday night is stressful.

When the station is empty or full, yous see this screen. Pass your card in front of the reader to see nearby stations with bikes or slots

When the station is empty or full, yous see this screen. Pass your card in front of the reader to see nearby stations with bikes or slots

An empty station

An empty Viu Bicing station

A screen telling me where I can find available bikes at other stations

A screen telling me where I can find available bikes at other stations

Pro: There’s a place to strap in your bag, there are three gears, and the seat is adjustable

The bikes have a nice place to strap in a bag. The bikes have three speeds, which if you’re unlucky are something broken. The seat’s adjustable as well.

Con: The Viu Bicing bikes are cheap

On a good day, you’ll get a well-tuned bike. On a bad day you’ll pick out a bike that has a twisted handlebar, 2 broken gears, an upward-pointing seat, deflated tires and screaming-loud breaks. The bikes are heavy, so don’t expect to cruise uphill, but you’ll fly going downhill.

The Viu Bicing bikes

The Viu Bicing bikes

Pro: The system is easy to use

It’s a self-explanatory system. Swipe card, take bike, return bike, wait for red light, good to go.

Con: Sometimes Viu Bicing fucks you

But then sometimes that damn little red light blinks green-red-green-red. And the system shuts you out, saying that you haven’t returned the bike correctly. But it will have locked onto the bike anyway, so you can’t take it out again. This has happened to me 5 times. Eventually the system always accepts the bike, and I don’t get charged, but when this happens, I have to wait however long for the system to recognize the bike, then the additional 10 minutes until I can get a new bike after the other has been properly returned.

Viu Bicing’s online account

You can manage all your Viu Bicing activity from an online account. Just associate your account with a Spanish bank card, and you’re good. There you can review your activity, and see whether or not you have been charged.

Viu Bicing account activity

Viu Bicing account activity

I’m publishing articles about Barcelona. This blog is a complement to the travel stories. Other articles about Barcelona include:



11 Responses

  1. Amy says:

    They are doing nonsense. Why they wouldn’t just charge any credit card in advance and let anyone rent a bike here? Their bikes cost nothing, the deposit is 1-2 hundred would be more than enough to cover the loses if any. As for a tourist it looks silly. I see the bike. I can pay. But I cannot rent it. …. All world has similar systems and it’s available for everyone.

    • John says:

      Blame the English and their pathetic attitudes and behaviour when away from home. They can’t behave like normal people when on holiday. Idiots ruin it for the rest of us. But, now as a resident of Barcelona, I’m so happy tourists cannot use these bikes! There are already not enough for all the bikers here, too tourists here act like morons like BCN is some kind of party/beach town (its not!) and, if those idiot tourists got ahold of these bicing bikes it would just get fucking stupid (especially the drunk ones) so, thank fuck not just anyone can use these. Also, if you want to rent a bike while in BCN, just go to one of the 100s of bike rental shops. If you’re a tourist, you don’t need a bicing, go support the locals and rent a bike – its cheap and they are everywhere.

    • Lisa McCarthy says:

      If tourists were allowed to use them there would be no availability for residents and it would be mayhem. Residents should be given priority, this is the daily mode of transport for a lot of residents. Simple as that. There are plenty of bike rental options for tourists anyway.

  2. Max says:

    Hey Cale, great article.

    I’ve just joined the scheme as I hope to start getting around the city above ground as opposed to taking the tube everywhere!

    From when you signed up, how long did it take for you to receive your card through the mail?


  3. Kira says:

    This article is so accurate! It is a great form of public transport and I loved riding around but the cons are terrible.

    The fines for when the system doesn’t register your return of the bike and the unfortunate time you don’t realise it, is outrageous! €99 Euro charged to the account when we put the bike back. Would love to know if anyone has disputed it and won. What did you do?

  4. Maya says:

    what does it mean ???

  5. Maya says:

    a 10-ride on the metro is around 10 euros, what does it mean ???

  6. Maya says:

    Sorry, got it all wrong. Can u rent a bicycle for a day for example?

  7. Maya says:

    Can u rent a bicycle for a day for example?

    • John says:

      Nope – you need a NIE and register with website, then wait around 7 working days before you receive it.

      Just rent a bike from the 100s of bike rental shops.

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