In the Plaza de Cibeles, hundreds of cyclists waited this afternoon for a new march to start to demand that more segregated bicycle lanes be built in Madrid. They occupied a section of the Paseo del Prado and at first glance it might seem that the call had been reasonably successful, but Mariano, a standard helmet, a white beard and an inconspicuous bicycle, came to the head annoyed. “I went through Madrid Río and there were many more people there,” lamented the man, who had left Aluche. “We are the same as always,” corroborated a two-wheeled journalist at one meter, who hoped that more riders would be added along the circuit, who would go to Plaza de Castilla to continue on Bravo Murillo, Joaquín Costa, Manuel Becerra and Alcalá until reaching Cibeles again.
It may be that in mid-November the overcast sky invites more to circulate next to the water than on the asphalt of the Castellana, but the capital artery was precisely one of the objects of the so-called ‘bicifestation’, called by several cycling associations and supported by the federation of neighborhood associations. There is a municipal commitment to enable three lanes for bicycle circulation that has not yet materialized, the commitment to electric bikes of the BiciMAD public service remains tepid, despite the good reception, and now the City Council threatens to prohibit parking in the sidewalks.
“We are always behind other European cities,” says José Luis, who wears a surgical mask and rides a mountain bike that gives the impression of being a good one. “Well, regular”, he clarifies, to insist on the need to build more kilometers of bike lanes (there are only 47, strictly speaking, which go to 700 if the non-segregated lanes are added, with the bicycles painted road, and enabled paths).
A loudspeaker brightens the wait with music, and some begin to ring the bells. Ana, Álvaro and Pedro wait a little further behind. The latter recalls the tranquility of riding during confinement, when there was no need to be aware of cars. Ana points out that her journey usually goes from Santa María de la Cabeza to Malasaña. “At first I was very scared, but I got used to it.” She had some scare (they threw her once while driving at night) and today the three defend the increase in lanes. “Cars have to respect”, adds Álvaro, who reflects on the no man’s land in which the cyclist moves, which is neither a car nor a pedestrian.
Rodrigo and Ana have come with their two children. “At least they put the lane of the Castellana, it is fundamental,” he says. They would like to travel by bicycle not only on the weekend, but for the moment they discard it “because of how complicated it is. More daring is Cristina, whose machine has an odometer, a mobile phone holder and a child-friendly chair, occupied by a wriggling little girl. She goes to work from Carabanchel to Getafe and sees “many difficulties” in the journeys, such as those segregated lanes that without prior notice lead to a traditional road. Behind is a trailer with two other small children. One of them does not understand the wait: “Please, let this traffic stop now!” People around laugh. “Let’s see if they pay attention to us,” Cristina says goodbye.
On one side of the road is a cyclist who looks like a biker, wearing a leather jacket and a perfectly defined toupee. Your custom bike has a Harley Davidson badge on the frame. “That’s how the first bikes were,” he says, but his is one of the so-called assisted pedaling, with a small electric motor that helps on slopes and starts. “I exercise more than others, because it weighs more,” he warns. Fernando regrets the absence of the march of those known as “calzadistas”, the fans who feel more comfortable without specific tracks for the two wheels and with whom they fight guerrilla wars on social networks. “Not everyone can go at 25 per hour, there are older people, or with old bikes. It is normal for them to be afraid,” he reasons. The bike has a built-in camera that records daily traffic excesses. He explains that it is difficult to deal with taxi drivers or cars with a VTC license, even more so with ‘scooter’ type motorcycles, which “do not know the norm and overtake in their own lane.”
The march begins and a small group waits at the first traffic light. They attract attention because they do not ride bicycles but on electric unicycles and, in Alejandro’s case, on a scooter that vaguely recalls, for being cumbersome, the skateboard of the high school bully from the movie Back to the future II. They demand that VMPs or personal mobility vehicles be given the same consideration as bicycles. They are a little nervous because in theory the march was not going with them and the Police, although they turn a blind eye, is pending. When the traffic light changes they leave and an agent comes to ask if everything is okay. “This is a very familiar march,” he explains, before leaving.