Malaga – a cyclist’s paradise?
With an average of 320 days of sunshine and kilometres of flat coastline, Málaga should be a cyclist’s paradise. However, Málaga has very few bike paths and most of them don’t connect. Other European cities, including Barcelona, San Sebastian and Seville, promote cycling as a sustainable and healthy form of transport. These cities have invested in extensive and safe cycle lane networks.
Heavy fines for cyclists
Until recently, the norm in Malaga was that when no bike path existed, cyclists could bike on pedestrianised streets (wider than 3 metres), the promenade and sidewalks. In the midst of the pandemic, Málaga City Hall passed a law prohibiting cycling in those areas. The law came into effect on February 1st 2021. Police have already started to fine cyclists.
The new law decrees that cyclists can now only cycle on bike paths (or in traffic). However, bike paths in the city are very scarce and most of them don’t connect. Many of them come to a dead-end forcing cyclists into traffic. Cycling in pedestrianised areas and along the promenade now results in fines from 60€ to 200€.
The new law also requires cyclists to park their bikes on official bike parking stands. City officials, however, admit there are not sufficient stands throughout the city. Parking bikes on a lamp-post or railing can now result in fines of up to 200€.
Not so Smart City
In 2020, Málaga won the title of European Smart City for its efforts and plans for creating a sustainable city. The first priority to achieve this title is sustainable urban mobility according to the Smart City web page: Smart City
Passing this anti-cycling law flies in the face of everything the Smart City award stands for. It demonstrates a complete disregard for sustainability and ‘clean’ transportation.
When many cities around the world are trying to rid their centres of car traffic, the councillor for Mobility in Málaga asks in this video: “If we have one lane for buses and one lane for bikes and personal mobility vehicles, where are the cars going to go?” Mobility Councillor Video
Pandemic – OTHER Cities Promote Cycling as Socially Distant Transportation & Recreation
At the beginning of the pandemic, the Malaga local government converted the right-hand lanes of some dual carriageways into 30 km/h lanes. Cyclists and electric scooters, in theory, can cycle ‘safely’, with cars, in theory, travelling no more than 30 km/h.
These 30 km/h lanes, just like the bike paths, do not connect, making it impossible for cyclists to ride without being in traffic at some point. As a result, recreational cyclists, families with young children and commuters are hanging up their bikes to avoid getting fined – or killed.
Since the new law came into force, accidents involving bicycles and electric scooters have increased by 200%.
The locals have dubbed the 30 km/h lanes “timocarril30” or “fraudpath30”. After public outcry, the mayor recently conceded, “It is always better for a bike to be on a bike path than a 30km/h lane.” He added that they plan to study the possibility of making the 30km/h lanes exclusive for bikes and scooters.
It is baffling why the government would introduce this law in the middle of a pandemic.
While the rest of the world promotes cycling as the perfect socially distanced form of transport to avoid COVID-19, Málaga condemns it.
Tourism is Málaga’s main industry and its recovery after the pandemic is critical for the economy. Málaga is an extremely popular destination for tourists from the UK, Holland, Germany, France and Scandinavia – all great cycling nations. Fining tourists while cycling on their vacation will hurt the recovery of Málaga’s struggling tourism industry.
Already, some bicycle rental businesses in the city have gone out of business due to the pandemic. For those still managing to hang on, this new law will be the last nail in the coffin for them. Long-established bike rental and bike tour businesses will likely close, adding more people to the unemployment queue.
An alternative and eco-friendly activity will cease to exist in Malaga- a city bereft of bicycles.
Growing local protests
Local residents are taking action. Almost 7000 people have signed a petition demanding a system of bike paths but we need more. Sign the petition, please.
On February 14th, the local non-profit cycle association, Ruedas Redondas, organised a demonstration to demand decent cycle lanes. Around 8000 local cyclists took to the streets to demonstrate against the new law and to show the need for more bike paths.
With international press coverage, the petition can reach more people and therefore achieve more signatures. The Malaga government needs to realise that a safe network of cycle paths is just plain common sense. It is the smart and right thing to do for the safety of all cyclists, and most of all, for the environment.
About Ruedas Redondas
A non-profit organization for cyclists that use bicycles as a means of sustainable transport in their daily life (to go to school, work, shopping, for fun or for sport) in the city and province of Málaga.
The organisation’s goal is to promote the bicycle as a means of urban and inter-urban transport that is healthy, economical, ecological, takes up little space, is for all ages and is practical.
About Kay Farrell
Avid mountain biker, bike commuter and member of Ruedas Redondas. Indignant about the new law which seriously affects the quality and safety of her day-to-day life as a resident cyclist.
Founder and director of Malaga Bike Tours & Rentals. Now in its 13th year, the company is struggling to survive the pandemic. This law is devastating for the business.
For more information, contact Kay Farrell at: firstname.lastname@example.org