The Spanish city’s authorities raise the cost of over-doing it for locals and tourists alike. But will it change people’s behavior?
BARCELONA - Why go to a bar when the vibe outdoors is so great? This is part of the appeal of this Mediterranean coastal city for party-seeking young (and not so young) people, who frequently turn public spaces into an open-air club: drinking, shouting, relieving themselves against walls, and plenty more. When they're done, streets and squares can end up looking like deserted battlefields.
In the past two decades the number of visitors to Barcelona has risen from 1.73 million in 1990 to 7.13 million in 2010. Overnight stays have gone from 3.79 million in 1990 to 14 million in 2010.
Visitor rates, however, aren't the only changes afoot in the seaside Spanish city. In recent months, the city government has also started to change course, encouraging visitors and residents alike to make better use of public space. Municipal authorities are trying to get their message across via ubiquitous red flyers published in various languages.
Part and parcel of the flyer is a kind of catalogue of fines for all undesirable behavior. The penalty for public drinking? A hefty 1,500 euros. Unauthorized selling of goods on the open streets? A fine of 500 euros. Public urination will cost you 1,500 euros. The same goes for skateboarding or rollerblading in spaces not designated for those activities.
"Sexual services' in public can also cost this much. And anyone caught spraying words or images on walls, or in other acts of vandalism, will be fined double. The same goes for anyone organizing gambling, particularly prevalent in Barcelona, with so-called "thimble riggers' luring tourists.
People who spend the night on the beach come way relatively lightly with a 500-euro fine. But it might cost them that much again if they used soap at the beach showers.
More and more complaints for undesirable public behavior are being filed with authorities. That number in 2009 had risen to 111,824 – and in 2010, it was up to 120,678. Still, whether the fines deter the merrymakers remains to be seen.
Read the full story in German by Ulrike Wiebrecht
photo - Macle
*Newsbites are digest items, not direct translations