The Government is going to approve this Tuesday in the Council of Ministers the first State Bicycle Strategy, which will mark the main lines of actions in favor of this means of transport until 2025. The document, to which EL PAÍS has had access, outlines hundreds of measures that will be coordinated from a new General Bicycle Office. Among the most interesting are training students in bicycle management and road safety education, creating a state network of interurban cycling infrastructures, forcing new buildings to have bicycle parking spaces and modifying tax regulations so that companies can offer them as a means of transport and are considered income in kind, something now reserved for company cars.
The Ministry of Transport, which has coordinated the work, intends for the strategy to become a turning point and serve to increase the number of people who move by bike to the detriment of those who travel by car or motorcycle. It also seeks to change the pyramid of urban mobility, which has always privileged the private vehicle, to put the pedestrian and the bicycle first, then public transport and lastly the car. The previous strategy, prepared by the General Directorate of Traffic (DGT) in 2019, was left in a drawer and was never approved. The department headed by José Luis Ábalos believes that the bike produces value for society in terms of mobility, but also habitability, health, environment, equity and sociability. And not only for those who use it, but for all citizens, by freeing up space and reducing pollution and noise.
The 151 pages of the document – divided into 28 action blocks – include measures such as training students and teachers in safe mobility and bicycle handling skills, carrying out cycling activities in schools and institutes, as well as cycling classrooms in centers for promote road safety education. These types of activities have been compulsory for decades in countries such as the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark, and the intention is that they will also become general in Spain. In addition, the strategy suggests providing incentives for the purchase of bicycles for girls and adolescents to alleviate the gender gap: according to the 2019 Bicycle Barometer – latest available -, 30% of men use the bike at least once a day. week, while women only do it in 15%. The new infrastructures must have a gender perspective.
The ministers will advertise the bike
The Executive commits in the document to launch state campaigns that promote active mobility (on foot and on two wheels); the first of them will be broadcast in the next few days and will have the participation of seven ministers. In addition, it aims to develop a basic, continuous and homogeneous state network of interurban cycling infrastructures. Another proposal is to modify the technical building code so that new residential buildings have to include parking for bicycles, as well as public transport stations. It will also try to develop cyclology, that is, the distribution of goods by bicycle, a much more sustainable option than vans.
The strategy proposes to study a modification of the tax regulations to include mobility by bicycle to commute to work as an income in kind, something that currently can only be done with the car (when the company provides a vehicle of renting to the worker as part of their salary). In addition, cycling mobility plans will be encouraged in work centers. Regarding road safety, the Executive will analyze whether to implement new sanctions for risk infractions against cyclists and will publish a periodic report on cyclist accidents in each municipality to reduce accidents. It will also create a national cycling tourism brand in Spain to get the sector off the ground.
All these measures will be promoted from a new General Bicycle Office, in charge of coordinating the different ministries, autonomous communities and municipalities and directed by Antonio Pérez Peña, a 40-year-old civil servant, 14 of whom has worked in the Ministry of Transport. “I always ride my bike to the ministry, you have to set an example,” says Pérez Peña, a convinced cyclist. “We trust that, with these initiatives, we will achieve that the bicycle will have more users both in daily mobility and in cycling and in other areas,” he continues. For now, the office has a budget of five million euros, but to implement these proposals it will need many more investments, something that the ministry has not yet revealed. What has started is the work with other departments. “There is a lot of coordination with the ministries, we are delighted,” says the official.
Lack of investment
The lack of committed investments is one of the complaints raised by the cycling organizations that have participated in the preparation of the document. Alfonso Triviño, spokesperson for the Bicycle Table, which brings together the sector, says: “It is amazing that the strategy does not yet have an economic memory. We thought that the Administration was going to put money on the table and for now it has not announced it ”. The Andalusian bicycle plan for 2013, for example, had a budget of 400 million euros, so if the initiative wants to be successful in the country as a whole, it will need a much larger amount. The strategy includes the creation of a repository of aid, public contracts and other financing tools to promote the bike, but without specifying them. The Executive explains that many of the recovery plan projects will include initiatives for this means of transport, but for now it has not materialized them. The Government also highlights that the Sustainable Urban Development program has endowed 120 million municipal actions that include the promotion of cycling.
The sector, in any case, sees the strategy as a very positive step. Laura Vergara, spokesperson for the coordinator Con Bici —Which brings together the majority of cycling associations—, highlights several aspects: “The governance system is interesting, it can coordinate the State, autonomies and municipalities, and also proposes a mixed committee of Congress and Senate. We have a very large legislative delay and this can help to alleviate it. In addition, an impact indicator will be created to evaluate what is put in place ”.
Jesús Freire, Secretary General of the Association of Brands and Bicycles of Spain (AMBE), considers that it is “a great advance”: “It puts us at the level of other countries, which have had a strategy for decades. It is a programmatic agreement that will allow us to have a framework for the future in order to develop transversal policies to promote the bike, since it is a vehicle that affects many areas, such as education, transport, mobility, infrastructures, health – riding a bike is an economic saving for public health – job creation, because the industry is experiencing a sweet moment… ”. In fact, twice as many bicycles as cars were sold in 2020, according to a recent AMBE report. It remains to be seen whether with the new strategy this vehicle will definitely take off in Spain.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.