Have you ever thought whether or not a disabled person can ride a bike? And if so, how would they do it? People in wheel chairs have it easy. The handbike or handcycle is a special vehicle in which a component is hooked to the wheel chair to form machine with three wheels in total. It moves by the force of the arms. Basically, it uses the same mechanism as a bicycle, but allows users to move further than just using a wheel chair. Nevertheless and for safety, streets and paths must be adapted similarly as it was a wheel chair. This new experience makes users enjoy all the bicycles benefits such as sport, environment, happiness and so on. Indeed, there are groups which cooperate to benefit themselves. One of them is the Club Tres Rodes Aspaym in Valencia (Three Wheels Group in English), the first in Spain. They enjoy their handbikes, promote social inclusion, prepare routes once a month, participate in activities and defend its reason. They are inspiring leaders.
Laws are written by politicians. Politicians do not need to know about everything to develop their job and advisors with specific knowledge help them. Sometimes malfunctions happen. This is the case when one tries to understand controversial laws. One of them is the Valencian mobility law. The implementing regulation has several nonsenses when comparing the treat on bikes and cars. Just one example. Driving a car at 70 km/h (43.5 mph) in a street with speed limit 50 km/h (31.07 mph) is fined with 100€. The same amount is fined to a cyclist riding a bike without bell. The preposterous sum is discredited if you think about the potential consequences of both actions. On the one hand, driving a car at 70 km/h can cause a fatal accident with deaths, injured people and material damages. On the other hand, lacking a bell is substituted by shouting in order to avoid a crash. Again, bad laws are present in every country and absurd laws should also be banished.
Few weeks ago I talked about the “anillo ciclista” as one the most important cycling infrastructures in Valencia. It was inaugurated with the obliged cut of the ribbon. This change has been demanding by Valencia en bici for more than 23 years. The former government of the city demonstrated a total rejection towards bicycles and sustainable movement. It has became possible thanks to the new government. Not only has it constituted a symbol for the change in the urban movement, it also has represented an improvement for pedestrian as we enjoy more space on the sidewalks. Furthermore, cars do not drive at so high speed since the new bike line has reduced one car line. This fact has helped to correct part of the infamous highways inside the city, although there is still a lot of work to do.
Hundreds of urban cyclists have met to celebrate it. The inauguration has took place in an informal way. The new government has proposed itself not to inaugurate anything due to the fact this was a form of generating manipulated pieces of news by the former government. Indeed, the opening party has been made by people from Valencia en bici. The mayor and the councilman of sustainable mobility have been presented looking the event. After that, we have rode it forming two groups which in turn have divided in subgroups. One of the first has started riding clockwise whereas the second big group has done it the other side. We have coincided in front of the Serranos towers at the end.
A great transformation is being done in Valencia regarding bike infrastructure. The most incredible bike line is the perimeter of the former city wall above the important projects. Let’s learn a little bit of history. The city wall was built in the XIV century by Pedro el Ceremonioso to protect the city against pirates and muslins. It accomplished quite well this function until it was pulled down in the XIX century to allow the city growth. Historic documents show it.
It has been transformed in one of the city highways following its former perimeter in the century XX. It has been formed by four to six lines (mostly car lines) which produced noise and pollution, and locked downtown up in an unhealthy circle. The local government is transforming it in the anell ciclista (cyclist ring).
In a few words, it consists in a bi-directional bike line with a physical barrier so that cyclists can ride it in a safe way without worrying about cars. Cars lose one or two lines and traffic is calmed down. Moreover, more bike racks have been implemented in the route. At the same time pedestrians are safer and do not feel cars pressure so stifling as before.
Have you ever imagined how could be the bikes in the late 20’s? Do you like dressing as in 1940? All these questions and much more can be answered in the Tweed Ride. The Tweed Ride is a global movement in which cyclists dress in traditional attire and ride classic bikes for fun. The event is usually done with no fixed date once a year. It depends on the desires of the local organizations. The ride goes mostly through the city center in order to evoke a vintage, magical picture card. Above all, it is a celebration.
The Clàssic Ride is the name of this exceptional event in the city of Valencia. The organizers worked hard to plan, design and advertise every aspect. We started from the Serrano towers (one of the ancient entrances to the city) and made a stop in the middle of the ride to recover energy by drinking horchata (a typical, sweet, refreshing beverage made from tiger nut). Then, we continued until a charming square in the neighbor of Campanar. Here, a group of swing dancers of the Spirit of St. Louis made a demonstration of their skills under lindy hop music. And finally, we enjoyed a picnic in the gardens.
Here, you can see a bunch of photos of the special atmosphere.
Distraction is the last main traffic problem in Valencia. They can affect to every driver whether they drive a car, a bike, a truck, a motorcycle, etc. Causes are variate like the mobile phone, radio, disc reader, gps, you name it. In this post, I am going to center in the distractions due to exclusively the road. In the next picture, one can see a cross with the cars coming from a one-way road.
The problem here is that the bike-line is bidirectional and car drivers often forget to see to both sides. As a result, car accidents have occurred here.
Another example is given in conjunction with multiple traffic problems I have explained in this series. If we mix distractions plus high speed plus amber traffic-light, we have the next photos.
Cars come with excessive speed from the avenue named dels Tarongers. They can see the amber traffic-line, but they do not stop unless a pedestrian or a bike is really close. Nor do they see on both sides and as a result of bike reaching speeds of 10-20 km/h it is a miracle that there had not been any death biker at this point.
Excessive cars speed is a constant problem within Valencia. Speed limits range from 30 to 50 km/h depending on the city zone. Most car drivers do not comply in respecting them. Police efforts are inefficient and thus it is common to see cars driving at 70, 80, 90 or even 100 km/h every day. Drivers do not become aware this awful way of driving puts into risk their lives and those who surround them. This fact also translates into risk for bikers quite often. Crossings in which bike-lines are involved are in dangerous due to this. Apparently quiet roads like in the photos become problematic. It is usual that cars pass the traffic-light line as they drive with excessive speed. Moreover high speed provokes a reduction in the time drivers have to adapt to an unexpected event like a bike crossing a road on a bike-line. If they drove according to the law, there would be no problem of this nature. On the contrary, high speed appears as a key factor in every study on the main causes of car accidents not only in Valencia, but also in the rest of the Spanish roads.
Awful bike-lines are located in several zones of Valencia. Although the new government is making efforts to eradicate them, there is still a long way to do. One of these is the infamous bike-line in the El Puerto avenue. It was built some weeks before the America’s cup back in 2007.
The set is discouraging as you can see in the photo.
Not only forces you to make an unnecessary turn, but also this particular point presents additional problems. Instead of following a logical path marked by the red line, bikers must also deal with reduced visibility thanks to the stand and some distracted pedestrians as this bike-line goes on the pavement.
Another example of a bad bike-line is shown next.
In this case, there is not enough distance between it and the parked cars. It can be that if a co-pilot does not realize a bike is approaching from the right or the left, an accident is guaranteed.
One common problem for cyclists in Valencia is the existence of light-traffics in amber. I am not talking about the traditional cycle of green-amber-red, but rather amber or no-light specially in turns to the right. According to the Spanish law, cars should extreme attention in this circumstance. The point is the opposite to what should occur. Most car drivers do not take it into account and hence crash happens sometimes causing deaths. What is more, these signals are put next to zebra crossings while the bikes and pedestrians traffic-light is in green. In the next pictures you can see a classic example.
In some other parts in the city in which no bike-line is involved, riding on the road is also dangerous with amber light-traffics:
In this case smart assess try to overtake you by accelerating their cars while you are starting to ride. This causes a dangerous situation because most of them are idiot who do not care imperil their lives and those of people surrounding them.
There is a curious infrastructure in Valencia which I rarely see in any other great city in Europe or at least in the most advanced European countries as it comes to sustainable mobility. They are the “urban highways”. In other words, I am referring to avenues with three, four, five or even six lines in each direction. This causes a lot of pollution and noise. One secondary effect consists of cars not respecting the traffic-light line. In the next figures, you can clearly see them on the road.
And still lots of cyclists have had fights with cars and motorcycles which have not respected it. It is just a matter of time that a crash occurs.