Monday, September 14, 2009

Biking in Spain

After the Tour de France finished this summer with a Spaniard winning for the fourth year in a row, NPR ran a story on July 29th about biking in Spain and the correspondent, based in Madrid, reported that people in Spain hardly ever biked to work or to run errands, even though Spain produced the last four Tour winners.

Having grown up in New York City – Manhattan to be exact – I know how easy it is to judge (and mistakenly so) a country by its largest city. In any event, while Madrid is not considered to be at all a biker-friendly city, Spain’s next three largest cities – Barcelona, Valencia and Seville – all are, and people in these cities make good use of their bikes for errands, commuting, leisure and sport. Barcelona and Seville both have incredibly cheap city sponsored bike rental programs (Bicing and Sevici), and Valencia has bike shops on what seems like every 10-20 blocks.

There are of course two big issues in Spain for bikers – sharing the road with pretty crazy drivers, and security. Bike rental shops tend to rent bikes with two! locks included and instruct you on how to lock your bike to make it fairly theft proof. I overheard one potential renter exclaim, “They would steal the seat?” and the bike expert replying, “they will steal anything… and everything if they can.”

There is nothing one can do about the crazy drivers, except be careful and stick to bike lanes and sidewalks, and observe the lights.

If you are planning on using a bike for getting around – take note. In Valencia, bikes are only allowed on the Metro during certain days and hours – all day Sundays and holidays they are allowed as well as AFTER 2pm on Saturdays. Otherwise they are not allowed and if you do bring the bike on during a weekday you will find your self being escorted out of the Metro by the Metro policia – I have seen it happen.

There is great biking to be had in Spain for all levels and for all purposes, and you will definitely not be the only one out if you choose to make it your transport choice.

No comments: