• Spain's news in English

Madrid electrical bike share system takes off despite lack of cycle lanes

The Local · 22 Aug 2015, 09:00

Published: 22 Aug 2015 09:00 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

In the shadow of the San Ildefonso church in the heart of Madrid, Anne Stauder, a tourist from Luxembourg, is trying out a BiciMAD bike for the first time.

"We came from Luxembourg with our four bicycles inside our car  -- my children, my husband and me -- and we have visited the city like that for 10 days. But I wanted to try the electric bike because Madrid is hilly," the 44-year-old said.

The white bicycles work just like a regular bike but an electric motor kicks in to help with pedalling, and most importantly it give an extra push up hills.

The city of some three million people launched its electric bike share system in June 2014.

While other European cities like London and Paris set up shared bicycles schemes earlier, Madrid is the first major city to offer a system that only uses electric bicycles.

The argument behind BiciMAD is that with only regular bikes, they accumulate in low-lying areas and need to be shuffled around by trucks to redistribute them to higher ground --  as happens in Barcelona.

Margot Bonilla, a 28-year-old IT technician, started using the electric bikes in July and no longer uses the metro to get around the city.   

"You exercise, you don't pollute and you move around fast. It's just a bit expensive for my taste," she said.

An annual membership to the bike sharing scheme c osts €25 ($27.7) while renting a bicycle costs 50 cents during the first half hour, then 60 cents for the next half hour.

By comparison a ride on the Madrid metro costs €1.5 for travel in the centre of the city. 

Another problem is a lack of bicycles, Bonilla added.   

"Yesterday I had to walk home because I went to two stations and did not find any," she said, repeating a common complaint from regular users of the system.

File Photo: AFP 

Vandalised and stolen

The city rents the bicycles from Spanish firm Bonopark, which since 2013 has supplied electric bicycles for a similar scheme in the northern Spanish city of San Sebastian.

"We have a thousand bicycles available at 160 stations right now," said the head of the BiciMAD system, Joaquim Jimenez.  

"We will have 2,000 electrical bicycles once the system is fully operational and the goal is to have 4,000 by 2026 when the contract ends," he added.

Madrid city hall has spent €535,000 to rent the bicycles from Bonopark since the bicycle sharing program was launched in June 2014.It blames the shortage of bicycles on a technical glitch with the docking system, which often fails to recognise bikes and locks them, making it impossible for users of the system to take them for a ride.

The electrical bicycles also suffer all sorts of attacks: they are mistreated by users, yanked from docking stations to be taken for a free ride, abandoned anywhere, sometimes even in the city's Manzanares river.

Since the launch of the scheme, 470 bicycles have either been stolen or vandalised to the point that they could no longer be used, according to a city hall tally.

Story continues below…

The vandalism has increased since the start of summer but city hall does not link the influx of foreign tourists during the peak travel season with the rise.

Stolen BiciMAD bicycles usually resurface since they can only be recharged at a public station and they weight a hefty 22 kilos (48.5 pounds), said Jimenez.

The launch of the electrical bicycle sharing scheme has led to an increase in the use of bicycles in general in the city, despite the lack of cycle lanes.

"Clearly we want a city with fewer cars," the city councillor in charge of mobility, Ines Sabanes, said.

"We need the use of bicycles to develop, it is an obligation," she added, referring to European Union demands that Madrid boost public transportation to curb high air pollution levels.

By Laurence Boutreux


For more news from Spain, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

The Local (news@thelocal.es)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Spain's 'Napflix' aims to bore viewers to sleep
Photo: Screengrab/ Napflix

A Spanish video platform called Napflix, designed to put people to sleep with dull content, was launched this week and its founders are on the lookout for more "monotony and repetition."

Recipe: How to make fabada - traditional Asturian bean stew
Photo: Flavio Lorenzo Sánchez/Flickr

The hearty Asturian dish is a perfect lunch on a cold day... and don't forget the crusty bread and cider!

Brit 'paedo' held on Costa del Sol after Most Wanted appeal

One of Britain's most wanted fugitives was arrested on the Costa Del Sol following a tip-off from an expat just hours after his face appeared on a public appeal.

Spain's parliament approves deficit reduction measures
Photo: Images Money/Flickr

Spanish lawmakers approved on Thursday measures to reduce the public deficit and keep it under the target agreed with the European Union.

'Cubism and War' show opens at Barcelona Picasso Museum
Pablo Picasso Harlequin and Woman with a Necklace. Photo: MP

Barcelona's Picasso Museum unveiled an exhibition on "Cubism and War" on Thursday depicting how one of the most influential artistic styles of the 20th century survived the First World War.

Why this bionic limb pioneer doesn't believe in disability
Hugh Herr has been award Spain's top science prize. Photo: FPA

The Local speaks to Hugh Herr on winning Spain's top science prize and how being an amputee doesn't make him disabled.

Dine in the buff at Spain's first nudist restaurant
A buffet of organic food will be served on "human tables". Photo: Innato / Facebook

Spain's first naked dining experience is to arrive on the island of Tenerife following the success of a similar venture in London.

Spain's top court overturns bullfighting ban in Catalonia
Photo: AFP

Spain's Constitutional Court on Thursday cancelled a bullfighting ban in Catalonia in what is likely to exacerbate tensions between Madrid and the separatist region, and between animal activists and fans of the tradition.

Out of the dark: Five years on from Eta ceasefire
Eta members made a ceasefire declaration in January, 2011. Photo: Gara / AFP

Five years after armed separatist group Eta declared a permanent ceasefire, Basque journalist Alberto Letona is still wondering when the dialogue will begin.

Hunt for ten most wanted Brit fugitives hiding out in Spain
Call Crimestoppers if you recognize these faces.

These fugitives from British justice are thought to be hiding out in Spain. Do you recognize anyone?

Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Madrid parish church faces fine over 'too noisy' bells
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Celebrate expat life at Madrid’s THRIVE convention
Fury after kids told to bring their own loo roll to school
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Disney announces plans for Don Quixote action movie
Activist tells 8-yr-old matador wannabe with cancer 'just die'
King to make last minute push to avoid third vote in Spain
Amazing photos of Catalonia's 'human tower' contest
What's on in Spain: October 2016
'No way, Jose! You'll never get your hands on our Rock'
Recipe: How to make a classic Spanish tortilla de patatas
Chorizo in paella? Go back to cooking school Jamie Oliver
Spain in eye of a perfect storm after 10 months without govt
Thousands share clips of life for 'Spain in a Day' film
Ten incredible Spain locations for Game of Thrones season 7
Analysis & Opinion
Why moving to Spain could be the best decision of your life
Seven reasons why autumn is the very best season in Spain
Spanish study finds four types of personality. Which are you?
New search underway for civil war grave of poet Lorca
Bison found decapitated on Valencia nature reserve
Forgotten Voices: What Brits in Spain think about Brexit
One dead and 14 injured in blast at Spanish resort
Game of Thrones want extras 'with muscles' to film in Spain
Thousands march in Madrid to push for bullfighting ban
jobs available