Friday, July 8, 2011

Cycling Safety in Spain

One of the things that attracted me to Seville was an article in the Lonely Planet travel guide describing the efforts the city is making to becoming a leading 'green' city in Europe. Many streets now ban cars in the historic centre, and a new Tram Line was recently built along the main avenue of the city. There are also many bike lanes and a bike sharing program in place, and they are doubt due to the climate, the cost of owning a car, the relatively flat terrain, etc.

But there were a few things that struck me about Seville's cycling infrastructure which I had seen in other international cities, including London from where I returned yesterday, and which I think are worth pointing

1. Unlike Vancouver, the bike lanes are both on the streets and the sidewalks. Where it is not feasible to add them to the street, the sidewalk will suffice, and I think it does work...while cyclists tend to go slower, I think that's ok too. It cuts down on accidents but still allows a vaible alternative to the auto, or walking to function. Now in many places, the sidewalks are wider, but in others, they are similar to what we have...but it all feels much safer....for all.

2. There is little, if any space taken up by landscaped barrier systems like those installed along Hornby and Dunsmuir. In fact, I'm not sure I've seen anything quite like this anywhere in the world. Instead, Seville uses lines and changes in pavement colour, and subtle metal markers in certain places to let the cyclists know where they can go.

3. There are posted speed limits on cycling routes...generally 10 k/m which is reduced to 5 k/m in certain areas. I'm not sure I have seen speed limits posted for cyclists in Vancouver. Please tell me if this is city policy.

4. Perhaps due to the safer conditions, cyclists don't always wear helmets. I noted this in my 2007 Vancouver Sun article. Indeed, I suggested that if we could improve bicycle safety, we might be able to reconsider our helmet requirments. One advantage of this would be to increase the number of cyclists...I really believe this...and facilitate more effective bike sharing programs.

Of course I was chastised by doctors and cyclists who had survived major accidents only because they were wearing helmets. However, my point is that if cyclists are restricted from travelling so quickly, then many of these more serious accidents may not occur. And I also believe that the total environmental and health benefits of far more cyclists will offset the occasional serious accidents that will happen because people are not wearing helmet

If I'm wrong, then why aren't helmets mandatory in most of Europe and South America, just to name two continents. And please don't tell me they are not quite as advanced as us or caring about the health of the people....if you believe this, you haven't been to Seville or Gothenberg, or Buenos Aires or Santiago. What I do know is that there are more healthy people who are cycling, and reduced carbon gases in many parts of the city.


Arno said...

Re item 3:
Speed limit on seawall is 15km/hr.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget Asia. Helmets are rare there too.

Different cyclists ride differently in different conditions. Helmet use would indicate an expectation of injury and that wouldn't be the case in most situations.

Buckle up if you're expecting to go down, but prevention is better than mitigation, so try to ride within ability and avoid falls to begin with.

Anonymous said...

I noticed 15 km/h speed limit signs on the seawall near the Westin Bayshore yesterday. Without a bike computer, I have no idea how fast I was going, but considering how congested it was with people heading to Summer Live, it was probably closer to 5 km/h.

david wilbert said...

regarding the vancouver-style of separated lane. grade separated bike lanes are reasonably common in montreal, for instance, the new-ish maisonneuve lane is all grade separated, as are numerous portions of the cross-plateau lane. in nyc, i can think of a lot of grade separated lanes, especially in brooklyn. the thing though is that it seems to me that the incorporation of green owes more to small town lanes, for instance, in places like santa barbera and san luis obispo.

in that vein, i read that villaraigosa plans for full vancouver-style lanes (among others), and they have the width there to do it.

Bookings Costa Brava said...

To be really safe, there shouldn t be any cars around!!
Have you tried the Vies Verdes? Green ways only for bikes.
I am sure you will love it, no cars and only Nature.
If you are interested in visiting Catalonia and in particular Girona and the Costa Brava, we recommend you to visit where you will get useful information about green routes to cycle. The Catalan government is adapting old rail routes for cycling only. It's a beautiful experience , only nature and no cars whatsoever. There are different routes for everybody, flat routes for the family and more difficult ones for the most experience bikers.If you would like further information, just drop me an e mail at

Carla said...

Argentina does have one of the loewst rates of contamination due to the great amount of cyclers in the country. Especially in BA, where there is a lot of traffic and there is a big awareness of the environment. I had an apartment rental in Buenos Aires and there was a "bicisenda" (bike´s path) which was full every day. That means they care and also that they want to be healthy and fit!