A woman circulates on a protected bike lane in Valencia.Mònica Torres
Two years ago, the Government approved the first State Bicycle Strategy, which included dozens of proposals to promote this sustainable mobility. One of them was the creation of recommendations to help administrations create good bike lanes. The result is the Guide of recommendations for the design of cycling infrastructure, which the Ministry of Transport launches this Friday and which asks that the paths for cyclists be protected, separated with physical elements and at the expense of the space of the cars. The complexity of the work — with consultations with dozens of organizations and local entities — has delayed the publication of the white paper, which comes at a political moment when some future mayors have threatened to roll back urban cycle paths.
"This document wants to transfer the experience of many cities that shows that what makes more people move by bicycle are protected and safe bike lanes, and it is not only worth with paint, but they have to have physical elements of separation. That's what really works to attract new users. If these criteria are not met, many people will not use them, starting with the elderly and children, "summarizes Toño Pérez Peña, director of the General Office of the Bicycle, which has coordinated the work.
The guide sets out the basic criteria that cycling networks must meet to be effective, that is, to get more people to use them. Thus, they have to be attractive, safe, coherent, inclusive, identifiable, dynamizing, comfortable and integrated into sustainable mobility (for example, favoring integration with public transport). On the other hand, he does not consider that the creation of bicycle lanes is positive, that is, painting a sign on the ground for bikes and cars to share space, a measure that is applied in cities such as Madrid.
The guide aims to become a consultation tool for the technical staff of the Administration and engineering companies that plan and execute this type of infrastructure, although it can also be useful for interested citizens and people with political responsibilities in the planning and design of cycling networks. "The Ministry of Transport does not intend to offer unique solutions for each specific case, but to offer a catalog of appropriate design options, emphasizing the most delicate aspects, to facilitate the application of the one that best suits the circumstances of each particular case," says the letter.
"It is a document highly demanded by the municipalities, which until now did not have homogeneous technical criteria to create this type of infrastructure. Being a guide, it is not mandatory, but it will be very helpful for future projects. We have made an effort to consult different entities and administrations, and the criteria that are working best have been reflected, "says Pérez Peña.
Thus, different solutions are proposed based on successful examples: for example, exclusive bike lanes on the side of the road, between the sidewalk and the parking strip, to the left of the road, annexes to the median, to the left of the bus lane, or against the hand, among others. Each model includes minimum measurements, technical recommendations and illustrative photos of some places where they can already be seen. "In any case, it is essential that the bicycle paths are made at the expense of the space of the car, either reducing traffic lanes or removing space for the parking of vehicles, and that they have a good maintenance," says the expert of the ministry.
"When a road is part of a basic cycling route, but it is not possible to build a bike lane because the street is small, we propose to reduce the speed to 20 per hour and put physical elements that help in this task, such as overpasses, narrowing lanes, changing asphalt for cobblestones and other measures," he continues. The document also includes a table with six categories of routes designed for cycling, with positive examples to build this type of itineraries in the field.
Reversal of bike lanes
The publication is launched at a time when some future mayors have threatened to roll back urban cycle paths. This is the case of Jesús Julio Carnero, PP candidate for Valladolid, who has been elected with the promise of reversing bike lanes and bus lanes and returning that space to the car, like his counterpart in Rivas Vaciamadrid, Janette Novo, and that of Palma de Mallorca, Jaime Martínez. While these types of promises are not always carried out, the precedents are not good: José Luis Martínez-Almeida debuted in 2019 as mayor of Madrid eliminating bike lanes to give more space to the car, an exception in the European panorama.
Madrid, the European exception against cycling
The director of the General Office of the Bicycle does not believe that the political situation will decaffeinate this launch: "What we launch is a technical text, it has nothing to do with electoral cycles. It will continue there even if the government changes, and in fact the idea is that it will be reviewed continuously to continue improving." In his opinion, "there is a consensus that we must change the mobility model to make it more sustainable, the phase of the bicycle being of one or another political color has already been overcome, and that will continue there regardless of the specific decisions of some municipalities". He gives as an example the State Bicycle Strategy, which was approved – by the Government – with the agreement of administrations of different political persuasions.
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