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Bike lane by bus lane. Seville, Spain Mar. 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

Bike lane by bus lane. Seville, Spain Mar. 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

 When I was cycling from the north, Cordoba to Seville, Spain, I entered into red-coloured bike lanes 11 kilometres outside of the city.  As kilometres decreased, the bike lanes became separated from the general traffic lanes as the city’s network of green cycling lanes unfolded.  120 km of separated bike lanes were spread throughout the city, with average width of  2.5 metres.
 

Traffic light intersection where pedestrians may cross. Seville, Spain Mar. 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

Traffic light intersection where pedestrians may cross. Seville, Spain Mar. 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

These bike lanes run from the highways at the northern edge of the city into the southernly suburb of Bellavista and beyond  –as the green way for cyclist. The lanes also intersect west to east from Rio Guadalquivir to the suburb of Torreblanac with riverside paths and arching around the Centro with feeder arms radiating outward.

Lanes have a smooth, green surface, with white centre lines,  cycling and wheelchair stencil symbols abd speed reduction signs with directional arrows before pedestrian crossings.  Cyclists can just glide through the city separated from car traffic.

Dapper yet casual with his bike. Seville, Spain Mar. 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker. Pedestrian crowds were plentiful during Seville's civlovia-- a car-free, mass pedestrian-cycling event.

Dapper yet casual with his bike. Seville, Spain Mar. 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker. Pedestrian crowds were plentiful during Seville's ciclovia-- a car-free, mass pedestrian-cycling event.

 Faster running green images of people signal that the crossing time is coming to an end at traffic light intersections.

Within 5 years, the cycling mode share in Seville has increased from insignificant to about 6% as this massive network was quickly formed.

Some of the cycling facilities replace parking or traffic lanes on the road, separated by half moons of concrete.  Other separation may be railing at handlebar height, between cycling path at sidewalk height and traffic lanes.  Some cycling facilities are parallel to pedestrian paths. 

At intersections, cycling paths take sharp turns for street crossings parallel with pedestrian crossings.  Intersection crossings are long, sometimes as long as 51 seconds.  The crossings are not efficient from cycling travel time perspective.

Bike-pedestrian bridge at night. Seville, Spain Mar. 2010. Photo by HJEH Becker

Bike-pedestrian bridge at night. Seville, Spain Mar. 2010. Photo by HJEH Becker

On bridges, the paths tend to be narrow, sometimes made narrower with light standards penetrating into bike lane space.  Bike lanes have flowing cycling traffic behind bus shelters.

The cycling lanes are normally not wide.  When available sidewalk width becomes insufficient for both pedestrians and cyclists, the cycling lane widths are diminished to whatever is available.

While the Seville separated bike lanes network is attractive for pleasure cycling, they are inefficient for commuting.  The carrying capacity has most likely been reached.  What will be the city’s strategy for expanding capacity as it is needed?

Pedestrianized street which allows bikes. Seville, Spain Mar. 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

Pedestrianized street which allows bikes. Seville, Spain Mar. 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

On Sunday, families with young children were on these facilities, cycling carefree with separation form the car traffic.  A father was running beside his child on a bicycle with training wheels and  balancing the child as she takes her first few metres toward hopefully, a life of cycling.  Young adults were there in very social mood.  Spandexed and helmeted men were out with their racing bicycles.  Yes, separation with well-marked, green lanes, invite people to cycle. The visual bike greenway lane has a positive effect.  Seville is a good example.

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Tourist trade includes many stores with swords and steel armour. Toledo, Spain. March 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

Tourist trade includes many stores with swords and steel armour. Toledo, Spain. March 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

 If you are in the need of some body armour from the days of the knight or a sword for your den, then Toledo is the place to go. Whereas in some cities one cannot get away from gasoline stations, so is it in Toledo where every few stores along the cobbled, medieval streets, they sell swords.

If a store does not sell swords, then they sell marzipan. Not just any marzipan is sold, but Toledo marzipan. As someone who grew up from early age, and (from Germany, a place also known for marzipan tradition) who knows the taste and quality of marzipan, I would have to say that Toledo marzipan is the real thing and good.

Marzipan in Toledo was good quality and ubiquitous. Spain March 2010. Photo by HJEH Becker

Marzipan in Toledo was good quality and ubiquitous. Spain March 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

Food lovers who are enamoured with U.S. style portions of meals, will discover at Toledo restaurants, that they will want to order more than one plate. I was struck by the small portions of servings in restaurants. That is good. Besides that, one is full after eating the good quality food served. Tonight it was a cheese torte. Not sure what type of cheese served but would guess that it was a combination of goat and sheep cheeses, good, strong on taste but not overpowering, yet mellow to the lips.

Toledo --a medieval fortified city. Spain 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

Toledo --a medieval fortified city. Spain 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

 Toledo is a medieval city within fortress wall, founded in the 7th century, BC. There is a bit of a history to this city now housing about 80,000 people. The city is perched on a hill with a rise of 50 or so metres within its walls. I quickly learned that walking in the rain and wearing stiff cycling shoes on cobble stone roads was not the smartest thing to do as I was slipping walking the upward incline of streets finished with small stones perching upward to the sky. Now, the glass of wine with dinner did not help the descend back to the hotel.

Business offering discount for cyclists. Toledo, Spain March 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

Business offering discount for cyclists. Toledo, Spain March 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

 The walled area of the Toledo is about 1 to 1.5 metres in cross-dimension. When climbing to one of the higher perches of parks overlooking the city, one cannot be but amazed at the number of churches within the fortified walls. Where there so many people crowded into the protected part of the city to support the number of churches present. These stone churches were not small with high rising steeples.

Brick-walled buildings filled in part by fieldstones seem to be the predominant architecture. Doors reflect the mediaeval times of the past –heavy, solid, and ornate. The streets are tiny with too many cars hurling down the cobbled pavements. Some streets become passageways. One has to be amazed by the effort it would have taken animals and people carrying the supplies for the day up the hill to the residences at the top.

Toledo transit's iconic conquistador knight guards the exit. Spain Mar. 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

Toledo transit's conquistador knight hangs onto the pole too by the bus exit. Spain Mar. 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

 Occasionally, one comes across a poorly maintained building falling apart. It is a loss since the fill-in brownstone replacements are not architecturally at the same level of the original buildings. 

Otherwise, Toledo is a well preserved city 

Old residential area. Toledo, Spain March 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

Old residential area. Toledo, Spain March 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

with clean-walled buildings and well-maintained streets. It is certainly worth a stop for a few days.

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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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