Source: El Pais, M. Viejo
Free BiciMad service announced in run up to municipal elections.
With Madrid’s municipal elections approaching, Mayor José Luis Martínez-Almeida has announced that the city’s BiciMad public electric bike service will be free from March 7 to July 31 in an unparalleled move to secure favour. The cost of this announcement is expected to amount to 1.7million euros, according to city sources.
According to the Department of Environment and Mobility, the scheme will be implemented to “encourage cycling mobility in the capital and that citizens can know first-hand the advantages offered by the new public electric bicycle system”. The BiciMad service, now in its eighth year, will expand and cater for all 21 districts, served by the gradual development of new stations and 7,500 new bikes. The budget for the development is 48.8 million euros, of which 60% is by way of European funding.
The BiciMad service has not been without criticism since its launch. It was reported that 30% of the bikes were not functioning in an August 2021 statement, a period when Director of Mobility Services for the City Council acknowledged, “We’re not going through our best moment”. A report published by eldiario.es in February 2022 stated that 11,000 subscribers had in fact unsubscribed from the service, although there have been some improvements.
European funding criticism
There has been some notable disapproval of European funding by Almeida, who in February 2021 announced to a wealth of national media correspondents in Brussels that “The management of European funds must be strengthened!”. Visiting as commander-in-chief of the mayors of the People’s Party (PP), he further exclaimed, “An arbitrary distribution is taking place. I insist, this does not harm the PP, this harms Spaniards. Here we are all equal before the law. We all have to overcome this pandemic and European funds are crucial to do so regardless of where you live and govern. This is what we have done and said in the EU institutions”. However, only two days later, El Pais reported that Almeida renounced tens of millions of euros that were destined to aid Madrid’s housing reforms.
Bike use on Madrid’s roads
One component missing from Madrid’s road network are cycle paths. In contrast to many other European cities including several in Spain, in Madrid there is only kilometre of cycle path for every hundred kilometres of public roads – 15% less than Barcelona, for example. Drivers in the Spanish capital are required to adhere to a 30kph speed limit when orbiting a cyclist, although this is largely neglected and a common complaint amongst those using pedal power. Those cities with a higher number of cyclists are deemed safer to use and report an increase in bike use, Seville’s 7% rise being a good example.
Architect Belén Moneo, who participated in the mobility tables of the City Council, commented to El Pais, “Madrid has not yet shown that it believes in the bike project,”, while despairing remarks came from Esther Anaya at Imperial College London, a professor specialising in urban mobility: “It’s not for lack of technical knowledge. It’s a political issue”.
The 100% discount on the electric bike service begins on March 7 and concludes on July 31.