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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

Spain’s consumer rights group OCU has carried out an extensive 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.

READ ALSO:

Article by Conor Faulkner

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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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