Wide, car-traffic congested streets, police in pairs on foot, by motorcycle, by cars, and even occasionally on bike everywhere in the Centrum, public buildings with high level of security and armed officers, that is the first impression of Madrid.
Tight Elevators For Cyclist, Folded Bike and Panniers
A hotel with two elevators. The small one claims that it can hold four people. Maybe that is true if they are school children. A sign on the mirror comments on the smallness and claims it is the smallest elevator for any hotel in Madrid. What is significant about it is not only its small size but that the elevator is in a triangle form. When I arrived there with one bag containing four panniers and the folding bike in its soft case, I had problems getting this stuff into the elevator and then squeezing myself in while the doors were rampantly closing in on me. No sensitive door mechanism for detection of people trying to get into the elevator. No, just close the door and get on the way. Interesting that no matter which floor is pushed on the panel, the elevators always stop on the 2nd floor where the reception is, no matter if the elevators are going up or down.
The Grand Via street runs through the Centrum. This 6-lane street with decently wide sidewalks is a major thoroughfare through this part of the city. With four traffic lanes and two bus and taxi lanes, the street is clogged with cars and their noise. What is missing on this street is any room for cyclists to make their way through. Old architecture buildings line the street with shopping on the street floor.
What is spectacular about the Centrum is the massiveness of the pedestrian street network. What is even more impressive is the continuous sea of pedestrians on these streets. What is also very impressive is the replacement of car noise with people noise at the same magnitude of noise as thousands of people wander, do their shopping, or just visit cafes, bars, or restaurants. These streets are not your usual dinky, narrow Stroget streets of Copenhagen
and other cities. Streets that may have accommodated 4 or 6 lanes of traffic are now just walking streets. Cyclists use these streets with agility avoiding and dancing with the pedestrians. Do not try to get through or in a straight line. That is impossible. The best you can hope for is to get on the tail of other cyclists, taxis, or police cars, which are allowed to use these streets. Store deliveries are made in the morning by trucks and completed by about 11:00 am.
What is also impressive is the number of large squares that these streets intersect. Hanging out in squares seems to be a very popular occupation here. Some squares have these portable boxes doubling for market-style stores. Some specialize on handmade crafts while others are your replacement for farmers markets.
The throngs of people continue well into the night, no matter if the temperature is around the freezing mark. It seems to be a social part of living in Madrid.