Bike Safety in Barcelona
Safety is the number one priority when cycling anywhere. This is especially true in cities and even more so in a foreign city where you are unsure of the lay out and the laws. Luckily for anyone coming to Barcelona the city has very much been built for biking. The roads are very wide and as it stands there are over 168km of bike lanes around the city centre and plans are in place to raise this to 300km in the coming years. So here are a few tips and pieces of advice for cycling in Barcelona during your stay.
Make sure you choose the safest route
When it comes to planning your route, choose the one most suitable for bicycles: one with cycle lanes, roads with little traffic. Maps of the bike lanes around the city are available online you will be able to map out a safe route before beginning your journey. If your route is too long or compels you to use streets with lots of traffic, try combining the bicycle with public transport.
Avoid the Ciudad Vella
The Ciudad Vella, also known as the Gothic quarter is the oldest part of the city. A lot of the roads are very confined, windey and difficult to navigate unless you have a firm knowledge of the area. They are also very crowded during the summer. It is very difficult making your way through these spaces whilst avoiding all the people taking photographs of the buildings! It is best to cycle to the outskirts, safely lock your bike up and then walk into the old town.
The rules of the bicycle lane
Some bike lanes are on the pavement. When this is so always make sure you give way to pedestrians. They have priority at all times when crossing it. When the cycle lane is on the road you have the same laws as the road traffic. There is a 20kph speed limit on the bike lanes. On many of the bike lanes they have their own traffic lights indicated by a small bike that lights up. Be very weary to follow these signals and do not go on red lights. A lot of Barcelona drivers jump the red lights by a second or two and if you are late and they are early you will collide! Overtaking is allowed on bike lanes but obviously make sure it is absolutely safe to do so before performing the manoeuvre.
When riding on the road
Make sure you ride carefully and respect traffic rules. Whenever you can, use the lane on the right, nearest to the pavement. Do not ride in the lane that is reserved for buses and taxis which will be clearly marked, ride in the next one. You are allowed to occupy the middle of it. It is your prerogative to ride on the right hand edge if you are a slower cycler but it will be more dangerous as you will have cars passing you to your left.
Before making a manoeuvre
Make sure when performing an overtaking manoeuvre or a change direction do so gradually and safely. It is very important to indicate in advance and making sure you have been seen. If you are at all unsure what the car behind you is doing do not make your manoeuvre until you do.
Whenever cycling in areas reserved for pedestrians, give way to them at all times as they always take precedence. This is especially true when cycling in bike lanes that are on the pavement. Do not cycle on the pavement unless there is a bike lane clearly marked out. Also make sure to adapt your speed to their numbers and if necessary jump off your bike and walk through crowded areas as you are liable if you hurt anyone. In these areas do not exceed 10 km/h.
Take out civil liability Insurance. This will cover you if you do happen to have an accident that involves others and will ensure your peace of mind. Find out about it from bicycle user organisations, the Catalan Cycling Federation, or the Guild of Bicycle Dealers of Catalonia.
Wearing the appropriate safety gear
While it is not compulsory to wear a helmet it is of course recommended for your personal safety especially if you will be cycling on the main roads. The use of reflective items of clothing which will make you more visible is also recommended. You may think you stand out in a white t shirt but from a car’s point a view you are just a shape.
Night time riding
When riding at night, the use of front and rear lights is compulsory. For your own safety and to stay on the right side of the law do not ride after dark unless your bike is equipped to do so. You must always have a bell to warn of your presence whenever necessary.
Keep your bicycle in good condition
Before going out, check your bicycle’s tyres, brakes and lights. Have periodic services at any specialised shop of which there are many around the city. When hiring a bike from a rental shop make sure the bike is in fully working condition before you take it out. If the tyres need a little more air do not be afraid to ask at the shop, it is better to pump them up before leaving than wheeling it back when you are the other side of the city!
Lock your bike up!
Barcelona unfortunately has an unsavoury reputation for thieves and bikes are very high up on that list. You will notice many bikes are double locked when parked with a U lock and a separate chain. If at all possible do not leave your bike out at night. Take it into your apartment when you can guarantee it will still be there the following morning! But if you have to leave it on the street do make sure to double lock it with heavy duty locks.
Barcelona is a very special city to see by bike so have fun and be safe!