These are the 7 bike riding tips you need to know to safely ride around Madrid. Biking can be stressful, especially in a place like Madrid. Some neighborhoods, avenues, or areas are a lot safer for bicyclists than others, so your experience can vary a lot.
Bicycles are not very popular in Madrid, even though the City Council has worked on developing a bike path network and offers a public bike rental service.
Cycling in Madrid is not easy. There is a clear lack of bike lanes everywhere and here you go from hill to hill. It’s not like Madrid where the city is completely flat, or like Barcelona where you can cycle on the sidewalk.
Of course you can go everywhere you like when you rent a bike in Madrid, but to give you a sneak preview of how beautiful the city is, here are some ideas of the parks you can explore.
Are you considering renting a bike in Madrid? Here is a complete guide to rent yours in a breeze.
So go ahead, pick a bike, and follow this 7 safety cycling tips.
Bike riding tips #1: Remember you have a right to the road
Part of having the confidence to ride out on the street with other cars is just owning the fact that you have a right to be there as a road user. But that also means that you are responsible for following all of the traffic rules, too. So, stick to bike lanes if they exist, and pay attention to any bike-specific signs or turn signals that you may come across.
Bike riding tips #2: Be safe, not stupid
A couple non-negotiables: you have to wear a helmet and you shouldn’t definitely not wear headphones. Technically, it is illegal to ride a bike with two headphones in your ears in Madrid, although you can use a portable speaker. But if you are just starting to ride in the city, you should probably keep the music separate and focus on the street.
Bike riding tips #3: Understand the signals
You may have seen some bikers use their arms as a turn-signal, which is helpful for other riders and cars. Basically, all you need to do is point in the direction you are turning (left arm for left turn, right arm for right turn), and hold your right arm down at your side when you are braking. If you don’t feel comfortable lifting up an arm, just make sure you look carefully where you are going and you have control of the bike.
Bike riding tips #4: Never ride against traffic
I know it sounds very obvious but drivers and motorists are not looking for bicyclists riding on the wrong side of the road.
When vehicles pull out of driveways or turn at an intersection, especially when making a right-hand turn, they are most often looking in the direction traffic is already coming; rarely do they look both ways, and they are certainly not expecting traffic in the bike lane to be coming the wrong way. Ditto for pedestrians, who look for oncoming vehicles their expected lane.
So, in general, it is safest to do what is expected.
Bike riding tips #5: Let people pass
If you are biking in a park like Retiro Park, you may share the road with cyclists who are training for a race, and therefore biking really fast. In that situation, you will want to move over to the right side of the lane so they are able to pass you. You may also encounter runners and other pedestrians. Be extremely careful with them. Be aware of what is around you!
Bike riding tips #6: Get some space
In situations where you don’t have a proper bike lane, you might find yourself skirting very close to vehicles, which can be dangerous. You should aim to have at least two meters of clearance between you and a car, which is a lot further than it sounds.
And if you can’t do that, then you should ride out in the car lane. It may sound stressful to do that, but it is generally a lot safer because you will force drivers to wait behind you or change lanes to pass you.
Bike riding tips #7: Don’t react to harassment
Riding a bike on streets with cars already puts you in a vulnerable position, and unfortunately you may experience harassment from other riders and people in cars.
If someone says something to you, remain calm and prioritize your safety. Although it can feel like you are doing something wrong, it is often just people taking our their own anger on you. Try not to internalize it, and if you feel unsafe, pull over and take a breather, then get back on.
Remember you can always adjust your route if you find that you are frequently targeted on the road.
This article is part of a complete tutorial about exploring Madrid on bike where you can read all the information you need to enjoy the city on a bicycle.
Here is a complete summary of all the guide:
1. Cycling in Madrid: should you walk instead?
2. Riding a bike: Madrid rules and recommendations
3. 7 bike riding tips to safely ride around Madrid
4. BiciMAD: Madrid’s municipal bike rental
5. The best bike on rent shops
6. The best Madrid bike tours