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Madrid City Council to build 33 new bicycle lanes in 2016

More than €40 million will be spent on completing the existing network of cycle paths

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A cyclist rides the bike path on Alcalá street.

Madrid City Council is planning on building a new network of bicycle lanes before the end of 2016. The plan, put together by left-wing governing party Ahora Madrid, will include the extension of the BiciMad public bike-rental service, as well as the construction of bike lanes that will be separate from roads.

Ahora Madrid – a bloc made up of a number of parties, including anti-austerity group Podemos – had promised ahead of the elections earlier this year to create a new cycling plan for the city that is “adapted to current conditions, that develops an integrated and coherent network of bike lanes, and is not just for recreational use.” The aim is to encourage the use of bikes, and thus combat the severe pollution problems caused in the Spanish capital by vehicle emissions.

The City Council has committed to taking over the public bike-rental service should it go bankrupt

The first budget of the City Council, which is headed up by former judge Manuela Carmena, only accounted for €2 million for the refurbishment of the existing cycling routes. But now the party – which lacks a majority of seats in the council – has reached an agreement with the Socialists (PSOE) to spend more than €40 million on 22 new cycling routes (either lanes in roads or paths in parks) from a €266 million Treasury allowance for sustainable investments. The conditions for those funds imposed by the central government require the work to be carried out in 2016, meaning that the deadlines will be tight.

Carmena has also promised to install the BiciMad system in the south of the city from summer 2016 onward (doing so before is not allowed according to the terms of the supplier contract), as well as committing to taking over the service should it go bankrupt, as has been threatened by its operator, Bonopark.

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A cyclist on a BiciMad public bike.

Former Mayor Ana Botella of the conservative Popular Party was responsible for the launch of the BiciMad service, as well as the creation of 70 kilometers of bicycle lanes on the city streets. These lanes are open to normal traffic, but are painted with large cyclist symbols to warn drivers, as well as having a speed limit of 30km/h. Mayor, Alcalá and O’Donnell streets all have these lanes, which came with an installation cost of €600,000.

Another one of the major bike routes in Madrid is on Serrano street, and runs along the sidewalk. But according to a 2011 municipal study, bike lanes on pavements do not reduce traffic levels nor do they promote the use of two-wheeled transport, as well as causing problems between cyclists and pedestrians.

According to a study, bike lanes on pavements do not reduce traffic levels and cause problems between cyclists and pedestrians

Cycle lanes on regular roads, however, are more controversial. The municipal transport chief, Álvaro Fernández Heredia, wrote on a blog a year ago that such routes slow down traffic (the more cyclists, the slower vehicles travel), but that they present safety issues. Cycling association Pedalibre has regularly denounced the lack of continuity of the routes, as well as errors in the road signs and, most importantly, a lack of respect by drivers with regard to the speed limits.

While cycle paths that are separate from the roads give cyclists a greater sensation of safety, they are also more expensive. The so called anillo verde (green ring) in the city, which is 64 kilometers long, cost more than €35 million to construct – nearly €500,000 per kilometer.

English version by Simon Hunter.