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CYCLING

Cycling in Spain: 12 fines you need to watch out for 

Riding a bicycle in Spain isn't exempt from the country's traffic rules, as these fines of up to €1,000 prove. Here are 12 cycling offences that bike users often overlook.

barcelona police hand fine to cyclist
Most of the traffic rules that apply to car and large vehicle drivers also apply to bike users in Spain. Photo: LLUIS GENE / AFP

Twenty million people in Spain use a bicycle frequently, a rate which has been increasing in recent years. 

That’s according to the “2019 Bicycle Barometer” survey carried out by Spain’s Directorate General of Traffic, which found that around 7.6 percent of Spain’s population rode their bikes on a daily basis. 

The pandemic has caused bike sales to shoot up by 24 percent in Spain, as people have looked for alternatives to public transport and more time outdoors after Covid lockdowns. 

So it’s safe to say that Spain, traditionally a nation of walkers, is embracing cycling as a means of getting around more than ever. 

You may not need a licence to cycle in Spain, but cycling laws are part of the country’s traffic code, meaning that there are plenty of cycling offences you could be fined for if you’re not aware of them. 

Not wearing a helmet – €200 fine

On interurban roads, often countryside lanes which link towns and cities, wearing a helmet is always mandatory.

On urban roads only cyclists under 16 are required to wear a helmet, although Spanish road authorities recommend always wearing one as it is the best means of avoiding head and brain injuries if you’re in an accident. 

Riding on the sidewalk – €200 fine 

It’s common to see people riding their bikes on sidewalks in Spain or through pedestrianised areas and squares, but this is in fact a punishable offence.

Has it been properly policed in the past? Probably not, especially in towns and cities which aren’t properly equipped with bicycle lanes. 

However, the proliferation of electric scooters and other small mobility vehicles such as Segways, whose riders usually ignore the pavement rules as well,  is leading local authorities to clamp down more on these practices. 

Not having lights or a reflective vest – €80 to €200 fine

Not using bike lights at night, dusk or dawn can result in a €80 fine in Spain, which can increase to €200 if the person isn’t wearing a reflective vest.

According to the DGT, “compulsory lighting for bicycles consists of a white front position light (or a white reflector), and a red reflector (that is not triangular) behind, both of which must be of approved use (homologados)”.

In 2018, a 78-year-old man in Galicia was fined €200 for using flashing lights rather than still ones, but the DGT has since clarified that this isn’t a punishable offence.

Not respecting road rules – €120 to €200 fine

It may seem obvious but just because a bicycle doesn’t have the same dimensions as a car doesn’t mean that cyclists can overlook general traffic rules. 

Ignoring a stop sign, failing to give way, entering a roundabout when you shouldn’t or cycling over a zebra crossing in the same directions as pedestrians (cyclists must get off their bikes for this) are all offences that can incur a fine. 

Likewise, cyclists have to give priority at zebra crossings without traffic lights if pedestrians are about to cross.  

Cycling in the wrong lane – €100 fine

Cyclists should stick to the right lane and stay clear of the left overtaking lane to avoid a possible fine. The exception to this is if the cyclist is going to turn to the left, in which case they can move over to the left lane. 

Failing to indicate with your arms – €200 fine

Cyclists may not be able to use indicator lights to indicate a change of direction as car drivers can, but they should use their arms instead if they want to avoid the possibility of a fine. 

This should be done either with the right arm stretched out horizontally or with the left arm bent at an angle.

Surpassing the speed limit – €100 to €600 fine

This may not seem like a common traffic offence for cyclists, but with the speed drop to 30km/h on many urban roads in Spain it’s now a lot easier to get caught out. 

If you exceed the stipulated speed limit by 1 to 20 kilometres per hour, you risk a €100 fine. Anything above that and the penalty skyrockets to €600.

A cyclist rides his bike in Madrid. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
 

Reckless cycling – €200 to €500 fine

Keeping in mind that cyclists are among the most vulnerable road users, Spanish traffic authorities can hand out stiff fines to those who endanger themselves and others with dangerous or careless manoeuvres. 

These include everything from only using one hand, to doing a ‘wheelie’ or on countryside roads taking up the whole lane by cycling in a pack rather than behind each other. 

Cycling with headphones on – €200 fine

Cyclists out in Spanish nature may assume they can listen to some inspiring music on their headphones to keep them motivated, but this can be just as dangerous and punishable as in urban areas with more traffic. Keep in mind that you can get a fine for only wearing the headphones, even if you weren’t listening to music. 

Using a mobile phone – €200 fine

Another tech-related fine that’s a no brainer. Speaking or texting on a mobile phone whilst cycling is a surefire way of catching the attention of Spanish traffic police.

Drunk cycling – €500 to €1,000 fine

As stated earlier, most of the rules that apply to car and large vehicle drivers also apply to bike users, and drink driving is no exception.

Cyclists caught riding with a blood alcohol level of greater than 0.5 grammes per litre, or alcohol in expired air greater than 0.25 milligrammes per litre can be subject to getting a fine. 

The higher the alcohol level, the bigger the fine. Logically, it doesn’t involve losing points off your driving licence but the ‘multa’ (fine) is likely to sting. 

Riding with another person on the back – €100 fine

Giving a friend a ride on the back of your bike as a favour isn’t legal. 

Unless the main rider is carrying a child under 7 sat at the back in an approved bicycle seat, only one person can use a bike in Spain. 

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LIFE IN SPAIN

Why you should think twice about buying a car in Spain, even if it’s second hand

A combination of supply and demand problems caused by the pandemic and a lack of microchips is making cars much harder to come by in Spain. Here's why you should perhaps consider holding off on buying that vehicle you had in mind for now.

Why you should think twice about buying a car in Spain, even if it's second hand

Getting your hands on a car – new, second hand, or even rental – is becoming much harder and more expensive in Spain.

The car industry has been hit by a perfect storm of conditions that have made new cars harder to come by and, as a result, caused prices to rapidly increase. 

According to Spain’s main consumer organisation, Organización de Consumidores y Usuarios (OCU), the microchip crisis affecting the entire globe, combined with an overall increase in the price of materials needed for car manufacturing and increased carbon emissions legislation has created a shortage of new cars in the country.

New cars

With less cars being manufactured, prices of new cars have gone up: a recent OCU report reports that new car prices have increased by 35 percent, higher even than Spain’s record breaking inflation levels in recent months. 

READ ALSO: Rate of inflation in Spain reaches highest level in 37 years

It is a shortage of microchips and semiconductors – a global problem – that has caused car production in Spain to plummet. In the first eight months of 2021, for example, production fell by 25.3 percent compared to 2019.

This is not a uniquely Spanish problem, however. The entire world is experiencing a shortage of semiconductor microchips, something essential to car manufacturing as each car needs between 200 to 400 microchips.

France’s car exports, for example, have fallen by 23.3 percent, Germany’s by 27 percent, and the UK’s by 27.5 percent.

Simply put, with less cars being produced and specialist and raw materials now more expensive, the costs are being passed onto consumers the world over.

Equally, these industry-specific problems were compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic.The average wait for a car to be delivered in Spain is now around four months, double what it was before the pandemic, and depending on the make and model you buy, it can be as long as a year.

Car dealerships across Spain were forced to sell cars during the pandemic to stay afloat, and now, when consumers want to purchase new cars, they don’t have enough to sell and can’t buy enough to keep up with demand due to the materials shortages that have kneecapped production.

Second-hand cars

With the scarcity and increased prices in the new car market, the effect is also being felt in the second-hand car market too. With many in Spain emerging from the pandemic facing precarious financial situations, then compounded by spiralling inflation in recent months, one would assume many would go for a cheaper, second hand option.

Yet, even second-hand prices are out of control. In Spain, the price of used cars have risen by 17 percent on average so far in 2022.

Cars 15 years old or more are 36 percent more expensive than they were in the first half of last year. The average price of a 15 year old car is now €3,950 but in 2021 was just €2,900 – a whopping increase of 36 percent.

As production has decreased overall, purchases of used models up to three years old have declined by 38.3 percent. Purchases of cars over 15 years old, on the other hand, have surged by 10.4 percent.

If you’re looking to buy a second-hand car in Spain, keep in mind that the reduced production and scarcity of new models is causing second-hand prices to shoot up.

Rental cars

These problems in car manufacturing have even passed down to car rentals and are affecting holidaymakers in Spain.

Visitors to Spain who want to hire a car will have a hard time trying to get hold of one this summer, unless they book well in advance and are willing to fork out a lot of money.

Over the past two years, since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been a shortage in rental cars in Spain. However, during peak holiday times such as Easter, the issue has been brought to the forefront.

It’s now common in Spain to see car rental companies hanging up signs saying “no hay coches” or no cars, similar to the no vacancy signs seen in bed & breakfasts and hotels.

READ ALSO: Why you now need to book a rental car in advance in Spain

While all of Spain is currently experiencing car rental shortages, the problem is particularly affecting areas of Spain with high numbers of tourists such as the Costa del Sol, the Balearic Islands and the Canaries.

According to the employers’ associations of the Balearic Islands, Aevab and Baleval, there are 50,000 fewer rental cars across the islands than before the pandemic.

In the Canary Islands, there is a similar problem. Occupancy rates close to 90 percent have overwhelmed car rental companies. The Association of Canary Vehicle Rental Companies (Aecav) says that they too have a scarcity 50,000 vehicles, but to meet current demand, they estimate they would need at least 65,000.

According to Spain’s National Statistics Institute (INE), fewer than 20 million foreign tourists visited Spain in 2020 and revenues in the sector plummeted by more than 75 percent. While numbers did rise in 2021, the country still only welcomed 31.1 million foreign visitors last year, well below pre-pandemic levels and far short of the government’s target.

Many Spanish car rental companies have admitted that the fleet they offer is down to half after selling off vehicles in the pandemic due to the lack of demand.

End in sight?

With the microchip shortage expected to last until at least 2023, possibly even until 2024, it seems that the best course of action if you’re looking to buy a new or used car in Spain is to wait, let the market resettle, and wait for prices to start going down again.

If you’re hoping to rent a car when holidaying in Spain, be sure to book well in advance.

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