Cycling safely in the city
Recommendations for enjoying your bike safely
Anonymized data from Strava Metro’s Global Activity Map, the world’s largest provider of active transport data, which shows the “heat” generated by activities such as walking, cycling and running in our cities, reveals that the four largest cities in our country saw a sharp increase in cycling mobility in the period from January to September 2019 and the same period in 2021. Valencia (35.49%) was the city with the greatest increase in this respect, followed by Barcelona (20.56%), Seville (12.37%) and then Madrid (8.17%).
This increase in urban cycling (boosted by the rise in the number of shared public bicycles, which, we should remember, were already being used by more than three million citizens in Spain in 2019), makes it necessary to reconsider the safety problems involved in cycling in the city, where you have to share space with cars, motorbikes and pedestrians.
The first rule you must obey is to respect both the rules of the road and the other people with whom we interact on the asphalt. Once you have avoided conflict with other road users, you must make yourself visible by wearing bright clothing and be sure to use the obligatory lights and reflective elements, backed up by calm riding with no sudden changes of direction that could put you in danger.
Having said that, here are a series of tips that will make your cycling in the city safer.
Although helmets are not compulsory in the city – unless you are under 16 years of age – it is advisable to wear them if possible.
Something that is required by law is a bell. This is essential in the city to warn pedestrians of your presence. As for the way to cycle in our cities, a new reform of the General Road Traffic Regulations supports safer cycling by allowing you to ride in the middle of the lane, given that in cities there are no hard shoulders to ride on and that when overtaking in the city the car cannot provide adequate safety space for such a maneuver.
It is clear that cyclists may not cross pedestrian crossings at red lights, and they must not ride across zebra crossings -they must get off their bikes and cross like pedestrians. Also, as a general rule, although there are exceptions in the various municipal by-laws, cyclists may not ride on sidewalks and in pedestrianized areas, nor in lanes intended for bus traffic.
A frequent doubt among cyclists is whether or not it is compulsory to use the urban bike lane when there is one. At Fundación MAPFRE we advise you to use it whenever possible, as a natural lane for bicycle traffic, although of course, this is always dependent on whether or not it is well maintained and the suitability of its layout.