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LIFE IN SPAIN

REVEALED: Spain’s most bike-friendly cities in 2022

If you're an avid cyclist who wants to move somewhere in Spain where you'll be able to safely ride around, or you're after a cycling city break, here are the most bike-friendly places in Spain.

bike spain
Seville is the second most bike-friendly city in Spain according to consumer rights group OCU. Photo: Arslan Ahmed/Unsplash

In early 2022, Spain’s consumer rights group OCU carried out an in-depth study on the state of all things cycling in Spain’s major cities.

In all fourteen of Spain’s biggest and most well-known cities were included in the study, including analysis of cycle lanes, rental schemes, road safety and overall cycling infrastructure functionality. 

City cycle routes were scored out of five stars on seven key criteria: ​​completeness, continuousness, uniformity, directness, recognizableness, denseness, and the extent to which it passes through major thoroughfares.

The results might surprise you, so The Local has outlined the winners and losers: the Spanish cities with the best and worst cycling infrastructure overall, and where to go for the best cycle lanes, the safest cities, and the best rental schemes if you are visiting on a short trip.

The best 5

Vitoria – Vitoria in Spain’s northern Basque Country came out on top, taking the number one spot. Scoring full marks on all criteria except directness and uniformity, Vitoria was even given a full five-star rating on the global classification rating.

Seville – The Andalusia capital came a close second, scoring maximum marks on all criteria except directness and recognisability. Anyone who has visited Seville knows how popular the public bike rental scheme is, and the city’s flat terrain makes it a very popular mode of transport and fully worthy of its five-star global rating.

Valencia – Over on the other side of the country, Valencia came in at third and took full five-star marks in four out of the seven criteria. Valencia also achieved a five-star global rating, and scored well on all criteria, particularly completeness and continuousness, an impressive feat for such a big city. In fact, Valencia is the biggest city in the top three, after which there is a drop-off in scores.

bike valencia

Valencia in eastern Spain is among the most bike-friendly cities in the country. Photo: José Jordan/AFP

Barcelona – Barcelona also managed to get a full five-star rating internationally, but fell down on the uniformity and completeness criterias.

San Sebastián – Up in the Bay of Biscay, Basque Country’s San Sebastián rounded out the top five, taking a four-star rating in the global classification and strong ratings across the other criteria.

The worst 5

Madrid – Anyone who has lived, visited, or cycled in Madrid knows that being a cyclist in the capital city can be a dangerous existence. Now officially the worst bike city in Spain, Madrid scored poorly on almost all criteria: just one-star ratings on all six out of the seven criteria, with its sole two-star rating coming in directness. Madrid scored a one-star global classification overall, a very poor showing for a capital city.

A Coruña – Second bottom was the Galician city of A Coruña in north-western Spain. The Gallego city scored as poorly as Madrid, with its sole two-star rating coming for the recognisability of its cycle lanes. Like Madrid, A Coruña scored a one-star global rating.

Córdoba – Rounding out the bottom three is Andalusian city Córdoba, which although had a stronger showing that Madrid and A Coruña still scored fairly poorly on most criteria, scoring two-star ratings for five and just one-star for uniformity and 

Málaga – Andalusian coastal city Málaga came in fourth from bottom, but scored a better overall classification than the bottom three by taking a two-star global rating. Málaga even took three-stars in the recognisability and connectivity to major thoroughfare criterias, but fell down on the directness of its cycle lanes, meaning cyclists often had to tae detours.

Bilbao – The best of the worst, Bilbao also scored a two-star overall rating, and the Basque Country city had two-star ratings across the board except for recognisability, where it managed to get three-stars. 

OCU's ranking of most and least bike-friendly cities in Spain according to several categories rating their cycle lane network . Source: OCU

OCU’s ranking of most and least bike-friendly cities in Spain according to several categories rating their cycle lane network . Source: OCU

READ ALSO: 12 cycling fines you need to watch out for in Spain

Bike-friendly categories

Rental schemes and parking spaces

The OCU also considered how accessible and safe bicycle parking facilities were in each city, and that each has a bike rental system or scheme that allows people without their own bike to travel across the city.

The OCU considered it important that bicycle car-parks are located close to transport interchanges (in order to be able to change modes of transport easily at bus and train stations) and that they are readily available and recognisable in city centres, university areas and other heavily populated places like shopping centers

In La Coruña there is nowhere to park a bike in the city centre, and in Bilbao, Cádiz, San Sebastián, Valladolid and Zaragoza they only really exist at train stations.

According to the OCU, the cities with the best parking options and rental systems were Seville, Valencia and Barcelona, according to a calculation of ‘rental points’ against population, location and price per use. Seville and Valencia are the cities with the most rental points per 100,000 inhabitants, meaning they are the Spaniards that make the most use of their public bike schemes.

Cycle lanes

Unsurprisingly, the cities with the best cycle lanes are those that scored best overall. The cities with the best cycle lanes (both in terms of recognisability and scope) were Vitoria, Seville and Valencia, who have made continued good progress in improving their network of cycle paths and even extending them. 

On the other hand, Cádiz, Valladolid and Las Palmas have also improved a lot in recent years, improving their scores, but among the cities with the worst results, Madrid and Córdoba stand out, and have hardly improved over the years despite the number of cyclists on their streets (particularly those on electric bikes in Madrid) has increased.

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HIKING

Eight of the best hikes in Catalonia

Long-term Catalonia resident and hiking enthusiast Esme Fox shares her tips and knowledge of some of the best routes in the northeastern region, with stunning waterfalls, volcanoes and lakes on the itinerary. 

Eight of the best hikes in Catalonia

Almost every region in Spain offers a great array of hiking routes, but perhaps some of the best and most diverse can be found in the northeastern region of Catalonia, where you have the Pyrenees in the north, the coast to the east and countless natural parks in the interior. 

Camí de Ronda
The longest and most picturesque of all the routes in Catalonia is the Camí de Ronda or Camino de Ronda. It runs all the way along the coast from the border with France down to the border with the Valencia region. Passing through quaint coastal villages, along clifftops and even through tunnels, the route was originally created by smugglers who used to take their loot from one bay to the next. Later, these routes were joined together to form one long one by the civil guard, in order to control and catch the criminals.

The trail runs for a whopping 583km throughout the whole region, but the most spectacular and well-known sections of the hike lie within the Costa Brava, which starts from Blanes and runs all the way up to Portbou on the French border. This part is around 220km long and can be done in 12 stages, taking a total of 12 days. It’s not necessary to do the whole route, however, you could easily take a single stage and make a day trip out of it. It’s best done in early summer before the crowds arrive or in September when it’s still warm enough to swim along the way, but all the holidaymakers have gone home.  

The Camino de Ronda takes you right along the coast. Photo: Esme Fox
 

Mont-Rebei Gorge
The Congost de Mont-Rebei gorge is one of the most striking in the whole of Catalonia, where incredible aquamarine waters run between dramatic ravines and lofty cliff tops and vultures soar overhead. It’s a popular route and is moderately challenging with several ascents and dips walking along narrow pathways or staircases clinging to the edge of the rock. It’s situated approximately a three-hour drive west of Barcelona on the border with Aragón. You can choose to hike longer or shorter sections of the route, but the main and most popular part is around 12km there and back.

Hike along the sides of a gorge at Mont Rebei. Photo: Ramon Perucho / Pixabay

Ruta dels 7 Gorgs
Near the small village of Campdevánol​​​ in the province of Girona, close to the foothills of the Pyrenees, you’ll find one of the most thrilling hikes on our list – the route of the seven waterfalls. It’s exactly like it sounds, a hiking route between seven different waterfalls. It’s best to go in summer as you can swim in each of the falls, letting the icy water from the Pyrenees cool you down on those hot Spanish days. It’s a circular route of just 10km, with an extra 6km if you’re walking from Campdevánol​​​ train station, but it could end up taking all day if you plan on swimming in each. The route is relatively easy, but there are some tricky steep parts getting down and up again from some of the waterfalls. Because it’s so popular, the number of people allowed in per day is limited and you must pay an eco-tax fee of €5 per person from June to November.

Take a dip in the Campdevánol waterfalls to cool down. Photo: Alberto-g-rovi / WikiCommons
 

Camí del Vi
Catalonia’s wine route lies within the Penedès, an area known for producing excellent wines and cavas and home to some of the best wineries in the region. It starts in the town of Vilafranca del Penedès, the capital of the wine region and runs for 3.5km, taking around three hours to complete in total, there and back. From the tourist office, you’ll walk through the town and then out into the vineyards themselves. Along the way are eight different stations where you will learn about wine production and the life cycle of the vine, as well as the different varieties of grapes that grow in the area. There are plenty of bodegas (wineries) near by where you can stop for a drink too. 

Hike the wine route in Catalonia. Photo: Esme Fox

Ruta de los 7 Lagos del Circ de Colomers
Between the National Park of Aigüestortes and the Vall d’Aran, just went of Andorra in the high Pyrenees lies the route of the seven lakes. It’s a total of 15km, but there are taxis that can take you from the car park to the beginning of the route and back, taking it down to just 7km. One of the most spectacularly beautiful hiking routes, as the name suggests, it passes seven glassy mountain lakes hemmed in by towering peaks and verdant forests. It’s of medium difficulty level, meaning it’s best if you have a bit of experience with hiking in the mountains.  

This hiking route takes you past seven mountain lakes. Photo: rodolfo7 / Pixabay

Ruta por los volcanes de la Garrotxa
Just north of Girona lies La Garrotxa Volcanic Zone Natural Park, which offers one of the best examples of volcanic landscapes on the Iberian Peninsula, featuring 40 ancient volcanic cones and around 20 old lava flows. One of the best ways to explore it is via the various hiking routes throughout the park. The best is the circular hike from La Fageda d’en Jordà to the Santa Margarida volcano and on to El Croscat volcano, which is 12km and takes just over four hours complete.

Hike through the land of ancient volcanoes in La Garrotxa. Photo: Carquinyol / WikiCommons

Subida al Pedraforca
The most challenging hike on our list is the ascent of Mount Pedraforca, located in the high Pyrenees, just below Andorra. It’s one of Catalonia’s most iconic-looking mountains – resembling a pitchfork with a small dip in between two soaring pointed peaks, one measuring 2444m and the other 2506m. The starting points generally begin at the Mirador de Gersolet viewpoint, but there are several routes to reach the top. It takes between five and seven hours to complete, depending on your experience but is best avoided in winter and early spring from December to April when the snow can make it even more difficult.

Challenge yourself with the ascent of Pedraforca. Photo: Josep Monter Martinez / Pixabay

Ruta de Carros de Foc
Another hike within the mighty National Park of Aigüestortes is the grand Carros de Foc or Chariots of Fire. It’s a circular route of 65km and takes between five to seven days to complete between nine different mountain refuges, where you can stay the night. The route is characterised by high mountains and large granite boulders, as well as several sparkling mountain lakes. You’ll need some experience and stamina to complete this one. 

Hike the Ruta de Carros de Foc. Photo: Ferran Ventura / Unsplash
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