Homage to Catalunya
Too many vueltas
It’s a bit of a mixed bag this week, dear readers. This week’s blog is brought to you from Palafrugell in Spain, where Louise is doing a flamenco workshop for the week. But it’s not all fancy footwork, turns (vueltas) and jaleo: we have had some interesting insights into travel attitudes and electric vehicles.
You can go by bike, es fácil
Our AirBnB is on the outskirts of Palafrugell and we were discussing with our host about day trips we could do. The obvious one is to the beach at Llafranc - about 5km away - and one of the first recommendations was to get there by bike, even though she knew we had a car. I’m pretty sure that the first suggestion of someone in the UK about how to get to the beach 5km away with a four-year-old wouldn’t be to go by bike. She even had a bike we could borrow if we wanted (but - por supuesto - we’d planned the bike hire weeks ago from the UK to ensure child seat and helmets).
And easy it was: there’s a fully off-road cycle lane all the way there, one of the Via Verdes (“green routes”) in the area. On the short moments we needed to go on road, car drivers were very considerate, giving us lots of space. We also saw lots of people walking reasonable distances to the beach, even though you could drive your car there. Again, not something we would usually see in the UK. It wasn’t quite the Vuelta de España but we felt quite proud of ourselves!
Louise’s flamenco group are also getting to and from the dance studio in the middle of the countryside by bike each day, even though she knows few of them cycle in London.
Una experiència electrificant
On a recent trip to Wales we dipped our toes in the unknown waters of hiring electric cars in the UK. We’re glad we did: it wasn’t hard at all, and while EVs are not without their environmental impact, they are better than driving petrol cars. And so for this trip to Spain, we decided to brave the EV network again.
There was little difference in price between hiring a Polestar 2 EV and a normal mid-sized car, and there was lots of availability too. The range of the car is 440km which is great - enough to get us to our accommodation and back. While we are in Palafrugell we don’t need it to get around - the bikes are perfect.
Barcelona (where we flew into) has a low emissions zone covering the city, including the airport. So we had to do some quick Catalan guess work to check which direction we could drive. Luckily our car was classed as ‘zero’ so fine to drive in the zone. We noticed that, as well as the usual fines and approach to exemptions, they also bring in additional measures when a spike in NO2 occurs.
Europe has been experiencing a heatwave recently, with this description from the Climate Change Service:
Europe is experiencing some of the hottest temperatures of summer 2023 so far, as a ‘heat dome’ expands over the southern half of the continent. This weather pattern allows a warm air mass to build up under a high-pressure system, creating stable and dry conditions.
It is thought that Europe is currently experiencing the peak of this heatwave, with parts of Greece, eastern Spain, Sardinia, Sicily and southern Italy seeing temperatures above 45°C at the start of this week.
As we know, this is part of a longer term trend towards higher temperatures. The EU Climate Action website has a good reminder of some of the impacts of climate change. This includes high levels of excess deaths during heatwaves, as this Nature article explains - almost 62,000 attributed to heat last year in Europe.
There are also more immediate impacts on behaviours - in hotter temperatures, do people get on their bikes? or stay at home with air conditioning? It’s harder to be aware of our impact on air quality when there is a near and present danger such as heatwaves and even encroaching fires. Thankfully, many of the actions we can take have a positive impact on both the climate and air quality. ¡Viva la bici!
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