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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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For members

ENERGY

How to change the title holder of utility bills in Spain

When you move into a new property in Spain you will need to change the account or contract holder over, so that any future water, electricity or gas bills will be in your name. It's not as easy as you may think; here's how you go about it.

How to change the title holder of utility bills in Spain

Changing the name on your utility bills and the payment details should in theory be relatively straightforward, however you may come up against some common problems which can make the change pretty complicated.

Firstly, you will need to find out which energy companies have been contracted for your property.

You can do this by asking the previous owner themselves, contacting your landlord if you’re renting or asking your estate agent to find out for you.

When it comes to water, this should be provided by your local council or city, so you won’t need to contact the previous occupant for this one. 

How do I change the title over?

When you first move in, remember to note down the numbers on the gas, electricity and water meters, so you can give these to the utility companies and they can record how much you should owe, instead of having to pay for the previous occupant’s consumption as well.

Next, you will then need to contact the energy company supplying your property or water provider and ask for a cambio de titular a nombre del arrendatario o comprador (ask for a change of ownership in the name of the renter or buyer).

The process should be completely free for electricity and gas, but in some cities, you may need to pay a deposit for changing the title of the water bill, which you should get back when you vacate the property. The deposit can be anywhere between €50 and €100.

Contacting the energy company by phone may be the best way to make sure everything is done correctly, but some companies also have online forms where you can request a title change. When it comes to water, most cities will have water offices you can visit or specific e-mail addresses if you can’t contact them over the phone. 

There are a few pieces of information you’ll need to have on hand before you contact the company. These are:

  • The full name of the previous person who had the bills in their name
  • Your NIE / DNI
  • The address of the property
  • The date you moved in
  • The CUPS code (not needed for water)
  • Your padrón certificate (for water only)
  • A copy of the deeds of the property or rental contract
  • Your bank details

With all this information, they should be able to change the name over on the account relatively quickly, so that any future energy bills will go directly to you.

At this time, you can also change your tariff or amount of energy contracted to suit your individual needs.

How do I find the CUPS code?

The CUPS code or Código Unificado del Punto de Suministro (Universal Supply Point Code) is a number that identifies each individual property that receives electricity or gas. The number doesn’t change, so you could ask the previous occupant for this as it will be written on their energy bills.

Alternatively, if this isn’t possible you can contact your energy distributor – these are assigned by area and stay the same. By giving them your name, address and ID number such as NIE, they will be able to give you the CUPS code associated with your property.

What if I want to change to a new energy company?

If you’d prefer not to contract the energy company that the previous owner had, you can also choose to go with a new one. In this case, you will still need all of the same information and numbers as above, but you will contact the energy provider of your choice and the type of tariff you want to pay.

How long will it take to change the name over?

It can take between 1 and 20 days for the bills to be changed over into your name. The previous occupant will receive their final bill and then you will receive the new one from the date you moved in.

What are some of the problems I might come up against?

The most common problem is when the previous occupant is not up to date on paying their bills and has some outstanding debt. In this case, if you try to change the title over into your name, you will also be inheriting the pervious owner’s debt.

In this case, you will have to get the previous occupant to pay their outstanding bill before you can change it over into your name. If you have problems getting them to pay their bill, then you can show proof of the date you moved in by sending in a copy of your deeds or rental contract. This should in theory allow for the transfer of ownership without having to take on the debt, however it can be tricky process, often calling the energy company multiple times and waiting for verification of the proof.

What if the energy services have been cut off?

In the case that the property has been uninhabited for some time, the previous owners may have deactivated or cut off the utilities. If this is the case, then you will need to call the energy providers to activate them again. This will typically involve paying several fees to be able to get them up and running. The amount you pay will depend on the energy distributor and where the property is based in Spain. 

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