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DRIVING IN SPAIN

British residents’ UK driving licences no longer valid in Spain

The British Embassy in Madrid has announced that the UK-issued driving licences of people who’ve been residents in Spain for more than six months will no longer be valid from May 1st 2022, adding that they will “rapidly accelerate talks” to find a solution but giving no further grace period to drivers left in limbo.

British residents' UK driving licences no longer valid in Spain
“Driving a vehicle without a valid licence is illegal in Spain,” the UK embassy in Madrid has told UK licence holders living in Spain who will not be able to drive from May 1st. (Photo by MIGUEL RIOPA / AFP)

UK Ambassador to Spain Hugh Elliott posted a last-minute announcement on Friday evening, just hours before the April 30th deadline for UK licence validity, confirming one of the worst case scenarios for British driving licence holders living in Spain. 

“We’re not there just yet. And we will not have reached an agreement in time for the end of the current grace period (April 30th),” Elliott said in the Facebook video post regarding the fact that Spanish and British authorities have still not been able to reach a deal over the mutual exchange of licences.

“What does this mean for you? It means that if you have been resident in Spain for longer than six months, your UK-issued licence will no longer be valid to drive here from May 1st (2022).”

So British driving licence holders who have been living in Spain for more than six months and did not manage to complete the exchange process yet in time, cannot drive in Spain with their UK licences from Sunday May 1st 2022.

“We know this will cause significant difficulties for those who have not yet been able to exchange their licence,” Elliott regretted. 

“I am relieved that most of you were able to exchange your licence as advised before the end of the transition period.”

There are no official stats on how many drivers will be affected by this, but with the latest British population stats in Spain pointing to 407,000 residents, it’s likely to be thousands.

“Driving a vehicle without a valid licence is illegal in Spain,” the UK Embassy stressed.

“If you are affected by this change and need to drive, you should not wait for the outcome of the negotiations and should take immediate steps to apply for a Spanish licence – as we have been advising for some time now.”

Spanish authorities have previously given UK driving licence holders four grace periods (of three or two months in length each), but there has been no further extension of UK licence validity granted this time.

So does this mean there is no deal and UK drivers residing in Spain will have to sit their driving exam again to get a Spanish licence?

It’s still unclear. According to the British ambassador, Spanish and British authorities have “agreed to rapidly accelerate talks next week in the hope of reaching an agreement soon as we already have in almost every other EU Member State”.

READ ALSO: Driving licences – How does situation for Britons in Spain compare to rest of Europe?

“You can be assured we are doing all we can to secure a long-term solution swifty,” Elliott concluded. 

The UK Embassy in Madrid reminded viewers that this does not affect visiting motorists from the UK or Gibraltar or UK licence holders who have recently moved to Spain, or British tourists visiting Spain. You have six months from the date you get your residence document to take a Spanish test.

Unless Spain has a bilateral agreement with a third country for the recognition and exchange of licences, most non-EU driving licence holders have six months from their arrival in Spain to use their foreign licences (some need an international driving permit from the very beginning, not Brits). 

After that, they usually have to sit theory and practical tests and get a Spanish licence from scratch.

READ ALSO: How much does it cost to get your driving licence in Spain?

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For members

E-SCOOTERS

Is it legal for e-scooter users to ride on the pavement in Spain?

They're increasingly popular across Spanish towns and cities, but is it legal for electric scooter users to ride on the pavement in Spain?

Is it legal for e-scooter users to ride on the pavement in Spain?

If you live in Spain, you’ll have seen the rapidly increasing popularity – and speed – of electric scooters. Often, users of electric scooters don’t ride in the road with cars and mopeds, but on the pavement with pedestrians or in bike lines.

Some electric scooters can reach speeds of up to 30km/h and collisions between scooter riders and pedestrians is an increasingly common occurrence in Spain.

In Barcelona, a recent survey reported that 60 percent of scooter riders in the city admitted speeding.

But what’s the law? Can electric scooters legally ride on the pavement? What happens if they do, and what happens if they have an accident?

The law

Simply put: no. According to the Royal Decree 970/2020, which entered into force on January 2nd, 2021, you can’t ride an electric scooter on the pavement. 

As electric scooters are a relatively new phenomenon, in the first couple of years of the craze managed to bypass legislation, but the government eventually caught up and included the electric scooters as part of its ‘Personal Mobility Vehicle’ regulations.

According to the Royal Decree 970/2020, it is forbidden to ride an electric scooter on the pavement, on crossings, highways, intercity roads or tunnels in urban areas.

The decree also states the maximum speed capacity of an electric scooter must be 25 km/h, although it is possible to tinker with the scooter to increase the top speed, something fairly common in Spain. If scooters exceed 25km/h, they are considered motor vehicles and they must comply with the rules of the road.

The exception

The law has just one exception. In pedestrian areas where vehicles can also enter with restrictions – known as Zonas Peatonales Compartidas in Spain – you can drive an electric scooter if you ride at a maximum speed of 10 km/h.

Fines

If you are caught riding an electric scooter on the pavement in Spain you are, in theory, liable to a €200 fine. Whether or not it will be enforced is a different story and depends where in Spain you are (more on that below) and many municipalities offer a 50 percent discount on the fine if you pay it promptly.

However, the fines can add up for more serious offences on scooters. Driving the scooter under the influence of alcohol or drugs can earn you a fine of between €500 and €1,000.

If you use your mobile phone as you’re riding a scooter, you could be fined €200. If you give someone a life, and there’s two of you on the scooter (as is often the case in Spain) you’re liable to a €100 fine and riding an electric scooter at night without lights or reflective clothing can also cost €200.

Fines and punishments for improper scooter use is always handled by the Policía Local, not Policía Nacional or Guardia Civil.

Regional enforcement

That’s the law. In reality however, enforcement is, like many things in Spain, very regional and depends on where you are.

Based on the decree 970/2020, each municipality has its own ordinances that road users must comply with.

Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia are the Spanish cities where electric scooters are most popular, and some of its particular regulations are below. 

Madrid

  • Minimum age: 15 years.
  • Allowed on the road, bike lanes, streets in which the maximum speed is 30km/h.
  • Rental scooters must be insured and used with a helmet.

Barcelona

  • Minimum age: 16 years.
  • Allowed on bike paths that cross the pavement and in 30km/h zones.
  • Parking is allowed in certain areas.

Valencia

  • Minimum age: 16 years.
  • Banned on all pavements except on shared pedestrian streets at 10 km/h. Allowed by road by cycle roads, one-way roads and by the road of streets of 30 zones at a maximum speed of 30 km/h.

Crackdown

Despite the ambiguity of the law between places and the confusion about the rules, some parts of Spain are already cracking down on scooter use, and the results suggest it is a problem across the country.

In just one week in Barcelona in 2021, over 1000 fines were given out to scooter riders and thousands of complaints received.

In Jaén last year, local police began a crackdown on improper electric scooter use that seized over 150 in the space of two weeks. 

In Santa Cruz de Tenerife, policed handed out 82 fines in just 15 days of enforcement. In the same period, 60 electric scooters were confiscated. 

In Cartagena, Murcia, local media has reported that one in three fines for electric scooter users is for driving in pedestrian areas.

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