Six Rides from Kevin Bacon is a project driven by a common interest in the concept of all strangers being linked by a short chain of acquaintances. In order to improve a developing infrastructure in the city, the cycling system, we analyzed how this general interest in the small world phenomenon could increase the bicycle usage in Barcelona and upgrade its conditions.

Small-world theory

What separates you from every other person in this 7 billion-people world? A very well-known theory called Six Degrees of Separation may have an answer for that: according to Frigyes Karinthy, all people on average are six, or fewer, social connections away from each other. The same concept was translated into what was called Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, a parlor game that shows how any actor in Hollywood can be linked through their film roles to Bacon within six steps.

Six degrees of Kevin Bacon graph example



The same idea of small-world network can be seen on Facebook. On this social network, you can be linked to everyone else by an even shorter chain of acquaintances: its small-world index is precisely 4.57, not 6. This concept can also be seen on countless other systems, such as, for example, our own neural network.

The concept

If we talk about connections, sharing systems appear as a solid example of how everyone can be linked in a way. We would like to focus on one in particular: the bike sharing system. Many of your friends and acquaintances might be a part of this small-world network of using the same bicycles, and perhaps even people you don’t know but would like to. For example, what would be the connection between you and Shakira? Maybe the answer could be: a bike shared.

bicing, small-world, six degrees, network, celebrities

Our idea is to implement this intriguing thought into a way to promote the bike sharing system in Barcelona – called Bicing -, increasing its use and, as a goal, the general infrastructure of cycling, leading to an even more sustainable city. The existing Bicing platform would be upgraded in order to display which people you know have used before the bike you’re taking from the station now. Therefore, after a celebrity, for example Shakira, uses Bicing, this specific bike would now have an identity: it would be Shakira’s bike. And you could find it and ride it too!

Or if by any chance, you take the same bike your close friend has previously used, you’d get a notification, transferring the idea of an online social network to an in-person physical one. From now on, you wouldn’t be taking a random anonymous bike: it would be Shakira’s bike or your best friend’s bike, increasing interest in the experience of Bicing and enhancing the feeling of shared infrastructure. A new dataset would be created: the degrees of connection between you and Shakira, you and Kevin Bacon, or you and your friends.

bicing station, celebrities, friends

The event

But when would Shakira use Bicing? Phase 1 of our proposal consists of a public event: on the
24th of June, a famous holiday called Fiesta de Sant Joan, Barcelona would host a televised event inviting celebrities, living either here (like Shakira, Lionel Messi, etc) or not (like Kevin Bacon, Morgan Freeman, etc), to bike around the city starting from the plaza of Barceloneta beach, spreading these new celebrity Bicings to different neighborhoods and starting the concept of network applied to bike sharing.

bcicing, sharing, event, celebrities

The project and the event itself would be sponsored by Bicing, the bike sharing company, as they’re the main stakeholder. However, the idea would be to involve other institutions that could benefit from this proposal. NGOs that support the cause of sustainability and decrease of CO2 emissions (due to the increase of bike usage), could be interested in sponsoring the event, such as Greenpeace. Entities that aim to promote cycling, such as Amigos de la Bici, could also be a part of it. On the other hand, the Ajuntament de Barcelona could not only be a sponsor, but also be interested in our main goal of expanding the bike paths of the city as a consequence to the rising interest in cycling.

Pros and cons

Evolution of bikeways

Therefore, the project would have several effects in Barcelona, both good and bad, but the positive outcomes stand out. One of them would be this very likely expansion of the bike path network by the city council, after this proposal increases bike usage in the city. However, one aspect should be taken into consideration: a pauperism of the bike network could happen if people only use the main paths, encouraging the government to invest more on these specific ones and leaving the others without maintenance.

bikeways, bicing

Broken bikes

The proposal could also have an effect on a recurring issue of the bike sharing system: the cases of broken bicycles, which in Bicing’s case, is of almost 300 a day. Some biased behaviour could happen, in a sense that people who don’t like a particular celebrity could be tempted to break his/her bike as a protest. Nonetheless, what’s more likely to happen is that people are more careful with bikes that have an identity of someone you like or of a celebrity you might admire.

The question is: would you break your best friend’s bike? Would you break Shakira’s?


Six Rides from Kevin Bacon is a project of IAAC, Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia developed at Master in City & Technology in 2020/21 by students: Laura Guimarães, Simone Grasso & Tugdual Sarazin, and faculty: Nicolay Boyadjiev.