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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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ENVIRONMENT

How to get involved with urban gardens in Spain

If you fancy yourself green-fingered or live in an apartment without access to your own outdoor space, you'll find that Spain has many urban gardens and allotments that you can potentially join.

How to get involved with urban gardens in Spain

Urban gardens or huertos urbanos have become very popular in Spain’s big cities, so popular in fact that in some of the bigger cities there are now long waiting lists if you want to be able to have your own little vegetable plot.

According to Focus on Spanish Society, a publication edited by Funcas, almost two-thirds of the total population (65 percent) of those in Spain live in apartments, the second-highest number in the EU, after Latvia.

This means that over half of Spaniards don’t have their own gardens, fuelling the need for green spaces in cities where people can fulfill their green-fingered ambitions or simply learn more about the cultivation of vegetables.

Urban gardens were created to meet this demand and have been around in Spain since just after the Second World War. Today, the report on Urban Agriculture in Spain, says that there are over 20,000 allotments around the country.

All of these work slightly differently – some are owned by the city council, others by cultural or social associations and some are private. There are different ways to get involved, from signing up to waitlists provided by your local Ayuntamiento (Town Hall) to paying a monthly fee to rent your own plot or joining a communal garden to work with others, instead of having your own individual space.

Here’s how it works in some of Spain’s main cities, what you need to do and how to get involved.

Barcelona

Barcelona has an extensive network of urban gardens in almost all barrios across the city, even in the very central ones such as Ciutat Vella and Raval.

Barcelona’s Urban Gardens Network is aimed at people over 65 in the city. They must be physically capable of agricultural work and at the time of requesting a plot and must not live with anyone else who has been given one. Part of the program is also reserved for people at risk of social exclusion.  

To be able to get your own little garden in Barcelona you must ask at the offices of Atención Ciudadana de los Distritos and bring the original and a copy of your DNI/TIE, as well as a certificate of convivencia, which can also be applied for at the same office.

Neighbourhood gardeners at Madrid’s community garden “Esta es una Plaza” (This one is a Square) Photo: GERARD JULIEN/AFP

Madrid

There are 74 urban gardens distributed throughout the Spanish capital, which receive training and advice from the City Council. They are also part of the Network of Ecological School Gardens of Madrid so that kids can learn about gardening and planting vegetables too.

The Network of Urban Gardens of Madrid is an initiative promoted by citizens who are dedicated to community agriculture within the city. On their website, you’ll find a list of each urban garden, as well as details on how to contact, join or rent a plot at each one. 

Malaga

There are several urban gardens located both within Malaga city itself and on its outskirts. While there isn’t a central organisation managing all the urban gardens like in Barcelona, if you want to get involved, you’ll have to contact each one individually.  Some of the best located closest to the city centre are La Yuca, El Caminito and Huerta Dignidad.

El Caminito is one of the most well-known and is located next to the old San Miguel cemetery. It’s managed by the El Caminito association and the main purpose of the project is to raise awareness of environmental issues.  On their website, they state that all you need to do to join in is to show up and be willing to participate. You can also e-mail [email protected] to find out more.

gardening

How to get involved with urban gardens in Spain. Photo: jf-gabnor / Pixabay

Valencia

There are several urban gardens in Valencia city. The four main ones are Parque de la Torre, Huertos de Benimaclet,  Hort de la Botja and El Espacio Verde Benicalap.  

Parque de la Torre is the largest urban garden in Valencia with a total of 274 plots. There is currently a waitlist to be able to get one, which you can join by contacting them via their website. 

Huertos de Benimaclet is a dedicated space of 60 plots for residents of the neighbourhood to grow fruits and vegetables and learn about cultivation and the environment. The cost to join is €22 per year and currently there is a waitlist. You can contact them via their website to sign up.

Hort de la Botja-Velluters grew out of the need for education and including those who were at risk from social exclusion. They have an active Facebook group, through which you can contact them and ask about getting involved. They also organise lots of activities such as those for local children.

El Espai Verd Benicalap is an urban garden and civic centre which was created between 2020 and 2021. It has just 15 plots, as well as an edible forest. The garden is reserved for those who live in the area of Benicalap and join one of the Benicalap barrio associations.

Seville

Seville currently has 13 urban gardens within its city limits, located in several of the main neighbourhoods. Click here to find out where they are and information about each one.

There’s also a website dedicated to Huertos Urbanos in Sevilla, which lists events, tours and open days when you can go and help out. You can contact them directly about the availability of renting your own patch or how you can get involved on an ongoing basis.

Just last year, the Ayuntamiento of Seville created 33 new vegetable plots in the Parque Guadaíra. Each one has been given to a different association to manage, so you may find that by joining a local association, you’ll have access to an allotment too. 

What if I can’t join an urban garden?

If you’re unable to join an urban garden because the waitlists are too long, you can’t afford to rent a plot yourself or you are in the right age bracket, then remember it’s always possible to create your own mini vegetable patch on your balcony.

No matter how small your balcony is, there’s always room for planters that hang off the edge, where you can grow smaller edible plants such as cherry tomatoes, herbs and small peppers. You can also place pots around the edge to grow various vegetables instead of flowers or traditional house plants. 

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