How Barcelona’s ‘bike bus’ scheme for schoolkids is getting noticed worldwide

In a chic Barcelona neighbourhood, a convoy of kid cyclists glides down a car-free street as part of the city's "bicibus" scheme to encourage green transport and physical exercise.

How Barcelona's 'bike bus' scheme for schoolkids is getting noticed worldwide
Around 140 children use the two "bicibus" routes that currently operate in the Eixample neighbourhood of Barcelona. Photo: Cristina Quicler/AFP

The children take to the streets every Friday in the city’s Eixample neighbourhood, picking up other kids along the circuit and dropping them off at their schools, as a traditional bus route would work.

The roads are closed to traffic to make sure the young riders are safe, and parents often join in, sometimes carrying younger children in bike seats.

The programme, which was rolled out in September, has been so popular that other neighbourhoods are hoping to replicate it — and interest has been piqued internationally as well.

“In several months, there will be other routes in other neighbourhoods,” said Genis Domínguez, 40, whose children go to school in Eixample, home to wide avenues and stylish shops.

Barcelona already boasts a network of bicycle lanes, but they are not necessarily safe for kids, Domínguez said. Photo: Josep Lago/AFP

“They are very close to the streets where cars go too fast and motorcycles get too close,” he told AFP.

Municipal police are available to escort the children, with officers on bicycles or motorcycles travelling in the front, back or next to the group.

Barcelona’s city hall said the goal of the scheme is to “promote a change toward a more sustainable and active mobility”.

Around 140 children use the two “bicibus” routes that currently operate in Eixample, but parents from 35 schools across Barcelona took part in a recent meeting to learn how to set them up in their neighbourhoods, said Dominguez.

Similar projects already exist in other cities such as Dublin, but a viral video of Barcelona’s “bicibus” has sparked interest in the scheme around the world, including from Buenos Aires and San Francisco.

So far, it’s proven popular among the pint-sized participants.

“Parents tell us that Friday is the day when they have the least difficulty to wake up their children,” said Domínguez.

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Spaniards have second lowest level of English in EU

Despite Spain’s popularity with English-speaking holidaymakers and home buyers, its people continue to have one of the worst levels of English in Europe according to the 2022 English Proficiency Index.

Spaniards have second lowest level of English in EU

A study conducted by language school empire English First in their latest English Proficiency Index found that the Spanish rank number 33 out of 111 countries, but are way behind other nations in Europe, as they came in at number 25 out of 35.

In fact, Spaniards have the second lowest level of English in the whole of the EU, with only the French ranked worse. 

This is in stark contrast to other EU countries such as the Netherlands (number 1 in the world), Austria (3rd), Belgium (4th) and Nordic countries Norway (4th), Denmark (5th) and Sweden (7th).

Spain even fell behind other southern European countries – Portugal came at number 9, Greece at number 14 and Italy at number 32. 

READ ALSO: Why are the Spanish ‘so bad’ at speaking English?

In terms of how the Iberian nation’s level compares on the global scale, Spain maintains a medium level of English proficiency, in the same range as Ukraine, South Korea and Costa Rica. 

People with this mid-level English are able to carry out simple tasks in English such as understanding song lyrics and writing professional e-mails about subjects they’re familiar with, but may have problems with more complex conversations and understanding films that haven’t been dubbed.  

“Despite making a little progress, the English level of Spaniards remains at the moderate levels where it has stayed for many years, without showing great improvements,” said the director General of EF Spain, Xavier Martí.

“The data confirms that the educational model presents deficiencies in language learning”. 

Which regions in Spain have the best and worst levels of English?

The study revealed that Galicians have the best level of English among Spaniards, followed by Catalans, Basques and then those from Cantabria, which all had above-average levels of English compared with the rest of the country.

On the other end of the scale, those from Extremadura had the worst level of English. Only slightly better were people from La Rioja, Castilla-La Mancha and Murcia, who all had levels below the national average.

When it comes to cities, people in the Galician city of Vigo had the best level of English, followed by regional neighbour A Coruña, Barcelona and then Bilbao. Madrid is in fifth place.

In terms of the cities with the worst levels of English, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria took top spot, only slightly above the cities of Murcia, Valladolid and the other Canary capital of Santa Cruz de Tenerife.