There is a consensus among city planners and mobility experts: cities need to remove space to the private car and promote active mobility, i.e., cycling and walking, and reduce pollution. For this reason, in recent years, most major capital cities, has opted to create important networks of bike lanes, while widening the pedestrian space. This trend has many examples in Europe, some classic —Amsterdam, Copenhagen and Seville— and more recent —London, Paris, Berlin, Barcelona or Valencia—. Even in countries where the car is king, there are cities —New York, Bogotá or Mexico City— that are betting strong by the pedals. Within this panorama last Monday was an exception unusual: the Madrid city Council announced that it will eliminate a bike lane to return that space to the car.

“it Is very strange to see that today in day are deleted routes cyclists to re-open lanes for private vehicles,” while “the majority of mayors of the world are changing their cities to introduce new modes of mobility”, explains the Italian Valeria Fedeli, president of the European Association of Urban Research (in English, EURA). The president of the Spanish Association of Technical Planners, José María Ezquiaga, concurs: “The global trend is to reduce the asphalt”. “For that the bike is a means of transport must be safe and easy for everyone, and that requires a network of bike lanes covering the entire city,” he adds.

Cyclists between the traffic in London. GETTY

According to the Consistory madrid (ruled by the PP and Cs), the lane that is to be deleted is a route marked on the ground of something less than half a mile (850 meters) in the Gran Vía de Hortaleza (in the perfieria north of the city). This lane (created by the City of Manuela Carmena) can not be traveled by car, although it is necessary for the cross to be able to park in the designated areas. Municipal sources accounted for its elimination in which causes a strong congestion of traffic in the area. After the controversial announcement, the mayor, José Luis Martínez-Almeida, only explained: “Revertiremos all those lanes that do not help the disabled cyclist”. To questions from this newspaper, the city Government has not been able to identify the technical criteria that underpin the initiative. The Consistory is considering the elimination of at least two other bike lanes in the city.


Almeida and Villacís opened the veda to dismantle bike lanes, The City decreases the bikes in service, Bicimad

To put the decision in perspective just think that in the city of Madrid —three million inhabitants— there’s only 43 kilometres of lanes segregated, which included the lanes that are protected and others painted on the ground. In Barcelona, with half of the population, there are 209 kilometres. In Seville and Valencia —with 688.000 and 791.000 inhabitants respectively— there are 200 and 150 kilometers, respectively.

The global trend is not only to create more miles of bike lanes, but in addition improve the that there are separated physically from the traffic to make it safer. “London, Berlin or Paris are changing lanes painted on the ground for other protected,” says David Lois, professor of the UNED and a researcher at the Center for Transportation Research of the universidad Politécnica de Madrid.

This week, the City of New York announced an investment of 1,700 million dollars to create 400 kilometres of cycle lanes segregated, after the death, this year, 25 cyclists. Many new yorkers have been fiercely opposed in the past to these pathways —even taking to the courts at the city Hall— a, stating that removed space to park and affect the stores.

Cyclists in New York. GETTY

“Many studies show that bike lanes benefit the local economy; we have endured the criticism, but the results have given us reason,” says Giuseppe Grezzi, councillor for mobility of valencia. To Grezzi, the problem is that “in other cities this shift towards mobility more sustainable has been more cross-disciplinary, but in Spain it seems that it is left-wing”. And considers the decision of Madrid as “a regression of a right pre-flood”.

Cyclists in a bike lane in Barcelona. Albert Garcia

Esther Anaya, who is investigating mobility at the Imperial College of London, is also very critical of the capital: “That we take this step back it is not only embarrassing, but an attack against the health of the people. Or opt for the speed and the contamination or give that space to the pedestrian and the bike, mobility, active and healthy.”

The cyclists also carry the hands to the head. “We are against the removal of bike lanes in any city in Spain, and we are committed to the construction of bike lanes, segregated to improve the safety of cyclists”, says Nacho Thomas, secretary of the Network of Cities for Cycling, which brings together more than a hundred Spanish cities -also in Madrid-. Niccolo Panozzo, a spokesman for the European Cyclists Federation ECF (in English) points out that “Madrid is the only city in the world, that it has happened to remove bike lanes,” and pointed out that there is a commitment to bike from Portland to Bogota and from Singapore to Tel Aviv.

Pathways protected by bollards or just painted on the ground

What is a bike lane? A cycle path that runs adjacent to the carriageway, signposted, in a one-way or two-way. From there, the typology of these infrastructures is extensive. A bike lane segregated is one that is separated from traffic by a physical barrier (a curb, bollards…). Is considered the via the cyclist safer and invites you to use it even with the rider less experienced. Other lanes are simply painted on the ground. Cars are forbidden to be walked on, but in reality there is nothing to prevent that from invading to stop in a double row or park. Your advantage: they are cheaper. In turn, any bike lane can be placed in the roadway (removing site to the car, as is recommended by the experts), or on the sidewalk, which is called a sidewalk bike and tends to create conflict with pedestrians. Finally, there are the ciclocarriles, that are the most insecure. To make one just paint a bike on the ground in a lane for cars, they should go to a maximum speed of 30 kilometers per hour. Are the most common in Madrid, but the vehicles do not respect the speed limit and, to questions from this newspaper, the city Council of Madrid has not been able to specify how many fines are put to those who exceed this limit or if it is fine. The result: a lot of people do not dare to move by bike between the cars that circulate at a great speed.

How to cycle from Paris to New York

Two cyclists in a bike lane protected in Berlin. Britta Pedersen (DPA)

The networks of bike lanes are growing in recent years in major cities of the world, always at the expense of remove space to the private vehicle.

Barcelona. , The Catalan capital has 209 miles of bike lanes, almost all segregated from the traffic, either by separators, or because they go for the sidewalk.In the past eight years they have created almost half, 105 miles. “We have improved several of the routes cyclists to the change of location, have been taken down from the sidewalk to the roadway or have been extended to improve security,”has your city council member to mobility, Rosa Alarcon.

New York. The bike is a central pillar in the dual strategy of mobility and sustainability, of New York, a city dominated by cars. The network of lanes reserved for cyclists grew progressively over the past two decades, to cover about 2,000 kilometers. Only in the last three years amounted to 100 kilometers on average, according to data from the Department of Transportation. The infrastructure is complete with the service of bike sharing CitiBike, which launched in 2013.

Paris. The mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, is a strong advocate of the bicycle, and has plans to construct next year a 1,000 kilometres of bike lanes to double the cycling routes current. Its intention is to create a network that would allow to circulate throughout the city through safe routes. The plan is complemented with peatonalizaciones,

London. The british city has around 100 kilometres of bike lanes in the city centre and many other signposted, but shared with vehicles. Have launched an ambitious plan to build 450 km of motorways, cyclists (cycle superhighways) before 2022 to link the center with the periphery. The objective is that in that year 28% of londoners live within 400 metres of the cycle network.

Valencia. The city of valencia has 156 miles of bike lanes, of which 33 were created in the last legislature, according to its concenjal of mobility, Giuseppe Grezzi. But your change rider doesn’t stop: next week sees the opening of a route of 2.4 km in Primate Reig. Since in 2017 opened the ring rider —about five miles—, has been circulated by him for more than three million users.

Berlin. According to the city Hall of berlin, the city has about 1,000 km of normal routes reserved for cyclists. The law of mobility that was approved a year ago requires that all the major streets of Berlin to have a path intended for exclusive to cyclists. “In all of the major roads or along them must be created facilities for traffic cyclist with surfaces of low vibration, and of easy access, a safe distance from the vehicles of engine parked and of sufficient width. These should be designed in such a way that cyclists can pre-empt each other with security,” says law.

Amsterdam. Considered the world capital of cycling, has 767 km of new cycle paths and 10,000 parking spaces for bikes. It is now proposed to go further and remove 11.200 parking spaces for cars in 2025 to help make the city more walkable.

Rome. According to the city Council roman, has 242 miles of bike lanes (142 in the city and a hundred in parks). In the past few years have created several new tours, and have another 15 kilometres of these pathways in construction or in phase of adjudication.

Madrid. The Spanish capital has 43 miles of bike lanes, including some separated from traffic and other painted on the floor. It is the only big city that is going to eliminate bike lanes.

With information of Clara Blanchar , Sandro Pozzi , Daniel Verdú and Enrique Müller.


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