Cyclists are a vulnerable group and they are most vulnerable on country roads when frustrated motorists are driving past in inappropriate places and the wrong way.
Cycling has become increasingly popular in Spain. About 10 years ago, the only riders seen on the roads were professional racing cyclists who were out training. Now a bike is being used for both training and to move from point A to B.
A quick glance at the sector’s sales figures confirms that this is correct. In 2015 bicycle-related equipment with a value of 662 million Euro was sold in Spain. That’s an increase of 68 million euros compared with the previous year and 112 million more than in 2013. The figures comes from the bicycle dealers (Ambe) annual report.
But unfortunately it’s not just the sales figures that reflects the bicycle boom. There has also been a corresponding increase in the number of accidents. According to the latest figures from the National Traffic Authority (DGT), the number of accidents increased from 592 in 2011 (57 serious injuries and three deaths) to 915 in 2014 (81 serious injuries and three deaths). – and this is only in the Madrid region.
Although most bicycle accidents occur in the cities, the most serious accidents happen in the countryside.
“A bicycle is not a toy, it is a vehicle that can achieve significant speeds. Some people are cycling on the roads without being aware of their rights and duties”, says José Almagro, Secretary General of Madrid cycling federation.
Several websites, such as those from RACE or DGT, have advice about bike safety. The most important rule in accordance with Spanish law is to always wear a helmet outside the cities. Persons aged 16 years and younger must always wear a helmet, both in cities and on the countryside.
There are some exceptions to the helmet law: In extreme heat, when cycling up steep hills and for professional cyclists. Violation of the helmet law provides € 200 in fines and parents have to pay if their children are not wearing a helmet.
A few more rules that cyclists must know about
- Reflective clothing and lights should always be used when conditions demand it (when it is dark, poor visibility or in tunnels). The fine is 200 €
- Lack of bell – € 80
- Poor brakes or no brakes – € 80
- Passengers on the bike – € 80
- Not stopping at a red traffic light – € 200
- Not giving way at an intersection – € 200
- Cycling under the influence of alcohol – € 500
There are many other laws that also affect cyclists, this is just a small selection. A bicycle is considered a vehicle and must comply with all rules as all other vehicles. Therefore, it is equally forbidden to ride on a zebra crossing as it is to drive there. If on the other hand go by bike and rent it, it is the rules for pedestrians that apply.
However cyclists have some benefits in Spain: Unlike most other countries it is allowed to ride side by side. But just as long as they keep as far to the right as possible and only if there is good visibility and there is not a lot of traffic.
In addition, bicycle groups have the right of way at intersections and roundabouts if the first runner in the group has already entered the traffic space. But this rule is obviously problematic when it comes to very large bike groups. Desperate motorists have lost their patience and then there have been accidents.
When it comes to riding on sidewalks or pedestrian areas, it is generally prohibited. But many municipalities allow it, often with a regulation on minimum width of the sidewalk for it to be allowed. And in principle, always with speed limited to walking speed (Malaga has provided many speeding tickets to cyclists).
What motorists should be aware of
When passing a cyclist or a group of cyclists, there must be a minimum distance of 1.5 meters to the cyclists. When passing two-wheeled vehicles it is allowed to cross the solid line, if it can be done without danger.
“No matter how much frustration a motorist can feel, remember how vulnerable a cyclist is.” Said Almagro. “It’s about having patience, common sense and follow the rules, because they are there for a reason,” adds Alfonso Triviño, Secretary General of the Association of professional cyclists and legal specialist in road safety. According Almagro’s there can never be too many information campaigns. Last year there were three dead cyclists on the roads of Madrid, while so far this year there have already been two fatalities.
Sources: El Pais, N332, Bikehub cycle chat and Camino Cyklist.