Spain to make urban traffic more sustainable with bicycle promotion plan

by Lorraine Williamson

MADRID – On Tuesday, the Council of Ministers will approve the very first Government Strategy for the Bicycle in Spanish history. A large number of measures are intended to ensure that Spaniards leave their usually beloved car at home and opt for the bicycle more often. 

The voluminous document in which the cycling strategy is elaborated contains 128 different action points to stimulate the transition to non-motorised mobility in Spain. To coordinate the implementation of this strategy by the various authorities, a completely new General Bureau for the Bicycle has even been created. An initial investment of €5million has been made for this. 

Making use of the bicycle accessible 

This government institution must, among other things, ensure that primary school students learn to cycle at an early age. And furthermore, that they are made aware of the dangers of traffic. For this traffic education, Spain will take example from countries such as the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark. In the Netherlands, all primary school pupils in age groups 7 or 8 obtain a traffic diploma. There will also be a cycle path network between the different cities and new buildings must be provided with a bicycle shed. With the introduction of the plan, employers will benefit from a favourable tax arrangement if they provide their employees with a bicycle for commuting. 

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Drastic change in current city traffic 

With the bicycle plan, the Ministry of Transport aims to radically change the current traffic within Spanish cities. Most trips will require to be made by bicycle or on foot. After that, city dwellers will have to make use of public transport. The use of their own vehicle comes in third place. With the plan, Minister José Luis Ábalos wants to improve the quality of mobility, quality of life, public health and the environment. In 2019, the Spanish traffic service DGT also made a plan to stimulate bicycle use in Spain. However, at the time, this did not reach the Council of Ministers. 

By providing a subsidy for the purchase of a bicycle, the Spanish government also wants to deal with the inequality that exists between men and women. Currently 30% of men cycle at least once a week versus 15% of women . 

Pandemic was an impulse for sustainable mobility 

In the coming days, the first government campaign to promote the bicycle will begin. Seven Spanish ministries have cooperated in this campaign. In 2020, the popularity of the bicycle was already on the rise. Due to the pandemic, twice as many bicycles as cars were sold in Spain. More than 700 thousand Spaniards chose their own bicycle last year and 370 thousand opted for an electric scooter. That means that more than a million people in Spain switched to sustainable mobility in 2020. 

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