Cycling in Madrid: Should you walk instead?

cycling in madrid

Cycling in Madrid is a fun and healthy way to get around the city. Even if you only pedal around for a few hours, riding a bike can be a very cool experience.

While it’s true that Madrid is not particularly flat, riding around its streets can provide a richer understanding of the space and distance. Plus, you’ll have more freedom to improvise than taking a bus or catching the Metro.

Renting a bike or taking a guided cycle tour is a great way to discover the city and can be quite an adventure. Exploring the city on a bike lets you see more in a day, while blending in with the locals at the same time.

Below you’ll find all you need to know about cycling in Madrid, including where to hire a bike, cycling safety, rules of the road and some tips to avoid your bike gets robbed.

A complete guide to cycling in Madrid

I love exploring a city on a bike. And it’s something that I try to do as often as I can, especially when I am in big cities that cover a huge area. I prefer the autonomy that a bicycle provides rather than relying on the subway or the bus.

The city of Madrid has undertaken considerable efforts to develop the use of bicycles by creating dozens of trails and bike paths. Jump back 10 years and barely anyone there owned a bike, let alone rode it. Now, it’s a different story.

Nevertheless, the has a mixed reputation when it comes to bicycles. Madrid is not always flat, but the roads are congested and the drivers aggressive — not to mention the cobbled streets, which offer anything but a smooth ride.

That’s why I get many questions from readers that are not sure whether they should explore Madrid by bike or walking. So I decided to come up with a complete guide related to cycling in Madrid based on my own experience.

The following section contains all the information 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 rental Madrid shops
6. The best Madrid bike tours

Should you explore Madrid by bike?

Madrid has nearly 1,000 km of cycle paths and counting! This is one of the good reasons to get on a bike and see the city differently. Visiting Madrid by bike also means feeling free, enjoying the fresh air, saving money, getting around without polluting, doing sport…

Having said that, Madrid is not exactly a biker’s paradise – shared bike priority lanes, traffic jams, aggressive drivers…

So before renting a bike and start exploring the city on your own, you should read the pros and cons and use your own judgement.

Advantages of cycling in Madrid

Exploring Madrid using a bicycle has many advantages. The main one is that, if you know your city and the possibilities of your legs, you can plan to reach your destination on time, without parking problems or traffic jams.

Other advantages of cycling in Madrid are:

  • You don’t need a driver’s license or liability insurance like you do when you rent a car (although I recommend you to always have a travel insurance).
  • You can easy rent it and use around Madrid.
  • You can park it anywhere.
  • You can save a lot of time because there are no waiting times and no traffic jams.
  • It’s very good for your health!

Disadvantages of cycling in Madrid

But the bicycle has a number of drawbacks, particularly in Madrid.

Among others:

  • The bicycle is still a means little accepted culturally and respected by other road users (e.g. car, bus and taxi drivers all together!) with which it can be dangerous within the city.
  • In cities with elevations like Madrid, you may face some steep slopes (and you’ll have to make an extra effort unless you have an electric bike).
  • On hot summer days, you’ll arrive sweating at your destination.
  • On rainy and cold days, in addition to being dangerous, you’ll arrive at your destination in a soup.
  • It can be stolen.

My personal advice on cycling in Madrid

In my opinion, Madrid is not a city for bikes. The City Council has taken some small steps, but there is still much work to do to improve infrastructure and safety for cyclists.

In order to be a more bike-friendly city, Madrid needs to focus on 4 main pillars:

  1. Reduce the number of vehicles and the traffic.
  2. Increase the number of bike lanes to connect all the neighborhoods.
  3. Create green routes linking the main areas of the city.
  4. Madrileños’ improved culture and awareness.

Currently, cycling infrastructure is not connected, that is why you won’t see lots of locals getting around by bike. Its use is mostly limited to work out or leisure during the weekends rather than as a way of transport.

So I suggest you explore the city:

Start planning your upcoming trip to Madrid

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