Didier Mimoso remembers a time back in 2008 when the monthly revenues from his bike rental service in Lisbon totalled what they now make in one day. He told his manager, Tania Galda, to hang in there–things would get better…and six years later, both Didier and Tania have lots of reasons to smile.
Bikeiberia now owns hundreds of bikes and rents to dozens of companies all over Spain and Portugal, and they blazed the bike trail back before biking was such a popular way to see cities.
We joined the pair yesterday and biked Lisbon’s beautiful waterfront bike path, a winding trail that follows the line of the river leading to the ocean, past the container port, a black 1600s Caravelle sailing vessel, and by busy port-side restaurants, bars and cavernous nightclubs. We also encountered huge crowds of Chinese tourists, an impressive series of monuments to Lisbon’s exploring past and a sprawling modern cancer research center built by a billionaire who died of the disease and wanted to leave a legacy.
It was sunny as we navigated the path, which in some places simply consists of medallions in the pavement marking the way. It veers around parks, through parking lots and then down long straightaways right next to pilings and boat anchors. “People are polite here, they are never obnoxious to cyclists,” Didier told me, as he dinged his bike horn and the crowds parted. ”Drivers in Portugal are mellow, they aren’t the aggressive types you might see elsewhere,” and it was true. Nobody minded us and in the bright sunshine of a beautiful day, all was right with the world as we glided along.
Of course we had chosen the right section of the city to bike, as we later found when we walked up hill to a hotel, and it felt like San Francisco. Up and down and cobblestones all around, but on the 9-kilometer bike path, all was smooth riding. There is a lot of activity on the Lisbon waterfront, they are converting and filling in an old ship dry-dock to create a huge swath of green.
Today the cars are barred from driving in this area and Didier and other bike fans are hoping it stays this way. The gigantic square where huge TV screens showed the European soccer cup match last weekend is gloriously car free. This is progress, Didier said, and he hopes that some time in the years to come the whole area will have tramways, happy bikers and walkers, and no room for cars.