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Generous bus lanes, but cyclists are not often welcome. Madrid, Spain Mar. 2011. By HJEH Becker

Generous bus lanes, but cyclists are not often welcome. Madrid, Spain Mar. 2011. By HJEH Becker

Leaving Madrid is best done by train. 

Cycling south certainly did not provide any fantastic scenery of architectural significant buildings or exciting streetscapes.

Commercial buildings were alot of wonderful post-war designs of the 1940’s and 50’s, where taste was forgotten.  Thirty kilometres of ugly urban sprawl before countryside was reached.  Then, at least, there was a green separation between municipalities, which laid about 5 or 10 kilometres apart.  The roads were busy.  The wayfinding signage was frequently missing when you needed it the most. 

In outskirts of Madrid, Spain. Mar. 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

In outskirts of Madrid, Spain. Mar. 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

 

Bus lanes can be found in any roads in Madrid, even the most busy four lane roads would have their bus lanes on it, leaving two lanes for driving in them.  But then, Madrid has a very extensive metro system so drivers do have an alternative way of commuting by bus and metro.

Still to be done:

  • Rolling countryside, green
  • Quieter roads
  • Toll roads and expressways not busy, smaller roads busier
  • Francesco 
    Finally, cycling out in countryside enroute to Toledo, Spain. Mar. 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

    Cycling out in countryside enroute to Toledo, Spain. Mar. 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

     

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Magnificent galloping horse statutes in downtown Madrid. Spain Mar. 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

Magnificent galloping horse statutes in downtown Madrid. Spain Mar. 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

 There is some cycling infrastructure in Madrid.  It was a bit difficult to find.  Usually, it consists of bike paths on shoulders of roads separated from pedestrian traffic by distance, trees, and then sometimes by street furniture. 

On some streets, the bike lanes went along the centre median.  Unfortunately, the intersections were poorly handled with cyclists needing to go back to the sidewalks for crossing streets. 

 Time wise, it was very inefficient resulting in many cyclists staying on the road. The first discovery of suitable streets for cycling, was a booklet handed out by the tourism offices.  It listed 10 routes for cycling.  Others, I found by cycling across them, especially the new path system on roads in the suburb of Leganes — approximately 15  kilometres south of Madrid.  Bike signals were commonly found throughout the city where presence of cyclists may occur. 

Madrid separated bike lane corner with pedestrian crossing and road traffic. Spain Mar. 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

Madrid separated bike lane corner with pedestrian crossing and road traffic. Spain Mar. 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

 Bus lanes were marked for taxi and moped use.  Never found out if cyclists should also be using these facilities.  I did observe some cyclists staying in the bus lanes and remaining in the adjacent general traffic lanes.  Certainly, the bus drivers on Calle del General Ricardos, did not seem to mind me being in the bus lane.  I think one driver was trying to tell me to get off the lane or something, but then his Spanish was well beyond my “si” and “adiose” level.

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Green Cycling Ring Route with some wide path sections. Madrid, Spain Mar. 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

Green Cycling Ring Route with some wide path sections. Madrid, Spain Mar. 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

 At the airport information centre I asked for a cycling map of Madrid and was given a booklet “Haz Deporte en Madrid” or “Practice Sport in Madrid”.  The booklet contained 10 cycling routes whereby one can see the best of Madrid.  Also, the booklet contained reference to “Anillo Verde Ciclista” or translated as the Green Cycling Ring.    This 64 kilometres off-road bike trail or multi-use path for the most part circled Madrid through the suburbs.  The route is well marked with posts every half to one kilometres apart signalling the way of the route and letting you know where you are along  

Helical steel bike-pedestrian bridge overpass under construction near Green Cycling Ring Route. Madrid, Spain Mar. 2011. By HJEH Becker

Helical steel bike-pedestrian bridge overpass under construction near Green Cycling Ring Route. Madrid, Spain Mar. 2011. By HJEH Becker

 the map in the centrefold of the booklet.  Every now and then, there were large maps mounted along the way.  Unfortunately, some people feel that the maps are ideal places to try out graffiti art.

The green cycling ring seemed to be well placed down park corridors, rivers, and parallel to major highways.  In a few places there were feeder bike paths leading into the city or local neighbourhood places.  Major roads are crossed by cycling overpasses with reasonable grade approaches.  The geography of the land provided some hills to climb.

Art murals along facade of residential buildings in surburbs. Madrid, Spain Mar. 2011. By HJEH Becker

Art murals along facade of residential buildings in surburbs. Madrid, Spain Mar. 2011. By HJEH Becker

 Finding water or toilettes along the way was not the easiest.  With limited retail activity close to the path, the opportunity to stop for liquid at a store was very infrequent.  Sometimes, one would come across a street toilette.  Make sure you have change with you if you are planning to use it.  Benches are regularly available in case it is mid-day and time for your siesta.  With two-hour lunches, bicycles were spotted parked at benches while the cyclist was replenishing his energy with a nap.

Steel bike-pedestrian overpass bridge to link with neighbourhood. Crosses a buried road. Madrid, Spain Mar. 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

Steel bike-pedestrian overpass bridge to link with neighbourhood. Crosses a buried road. Madrid, Spain Mar. 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

 The circular route is well used by people out to get cycling exercise or training.  It is a peaceful way to get around. One does feel removed from the noise of cars on streets.

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Busy wide streets in downtown Madrid. Spain Mar. 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

Busy wide streets in downtown Madrid. Spain Mar. 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

 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.

Plazas for some busy pedestrian areas. Madrid, Spain. Mar. 2011 Photo by HJEH Becker

Plazas for some busy pedestrian areas. Madrid, Spain. Mar. 2011 Photo by HJEH Becker

Pedestrian Streets
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 

Some wide streets now pedestrianized. Madrid, Spain Mar. 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

Some wide streets now pedestrianized where cyclists also cycle slowly through if crowded. Madrid, Spain Mar. 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

 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.

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Some very wide roads --intimidating to many cyclists. Madrid, Spain. Mar. 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

Some very wide roads --intimidating to many cyclists. Madrid, Spain. Mar. 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

 It is 5:00 pm on Wednesday and after an hour delay in Frankfurt, I am finally in Madrid.  At this stage, I do not fancy the 5 kilometres cycle to the hotel in the Centrum with only limited information on how to get there.  So a quick walk in the terminal to the hotel shuttle stand and a comfortable ride to the hotel door. 

As I watch the roads going by, I am not encouraged about cycling in this city.  There has been little information available on cycling in Madrid.  Fortunately, close by the shuttle service office, there was an information centre.  No bike map of Madrid was available.  Instead there was a booklet with maps of 10 different cycling trips in town and a mention of a 64 kilometre round the city bike route.  More on this later.

Apparently, there is a way to cycle to downtown form the airport.  I did find the information on a map along the green cycling ring.  When I went to check the route out, I found that one of the bridges on the way was closed to construction.  So this will have to wait until a future time.  Guess I will be going back to the airport with the shuttle again.

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