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I have a dream about a long bicycle trip in Spain from Malaga to Barcelona. It is about 1000 km. Is it safe? I mean, does Spain have enough bicycle roads to drive or would I drive on common roads with cars? Google Maps doesn't show any bicycle roads.

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    I am from Spain. What is a "bicycle road"? – SJuan76 Jul 27 '17 at 13:22
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    @SJuan76 I think OP means something like this rowerowapila.files.wordpress.com/2013/05/wp_000139.jpg separate part of the road only for bikes (with pedestrians and cars disallowed) – Kuba Jul 27 '17 at 13:29
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    @Kuba I get that... I just wanted to state how unfamiliar the whole concept is in Spain. We have bycicle lanes in some cities, but not for roads. – SJuan76 Jul 27 '17 at 13:30
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    Sorry for misunderstanding. Yeah, I mean separate part of the road only for bicycle like it present on picture. – nick_gabpe Jul 27 '17 at 13:58
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    spain has 0km of bicycle roads on the route you plan. – CptEric Aug 3 '17 at 11:04
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Most cycling you will be doing will be on roadways with motor vehicles. Unlike the Netherlands, Spain does not have a national network of long distance bike paths.

Is it safe? Yes it can be assuming 1: you as the cyclist know how to ride your fully loaded bike in traffic and know when to command the road or share the road; 2: you stick with secondary roads as much as possible, not numbered big highways.

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    It is sad. I can ride on same road with motor vehicles but I feel a little uncomfortable. Anyway thank you. – nick_gabpe Jul 27 '17 at 14:18
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A Spanish system which approximates your "bicycle roads" is called Vias Verdes. A few of the routes are more than 50km long, but as you can see on their map they're not especially helpful for your route, with the possible exception of the section Sierra de Alcaraz to Albacete. (They're mainly if not entirely replacements for disused railway lines, and the Spanish railway system, like many others, is principally designed around radial connections to the capital).

There are other bicycle lanes, but I'm not aware of any site which aims to map them all.

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Is it safe?

No, not at all. It's been already said in other comments and answers, but I feel it has not been stressed enough: as of today, Spain is NOT adapted to cyclists.

  • On the road:
    • 99,9% of the road network does not have any separate lanes or roads for bicycles, period.
    • Most roads with big enough shoulders are forbidden to bicycles.
    • Secondary roads usable by cyclist don't have proper shoulders and you have to use the same lane than cars and trucks. You'll even need to leave the road from time to time to give room for tractors etc. which are also forced to use the side of the road.
  • On cities:
    • Cities' bike lanes are usually just painted on the sidewalk, no physical separation from pedestrians whatsoever.
    • Most bike lanes on sidewalks were added many many years after the sidewalks were built, with no planning at all, so:
      • you might find trees, light posts, road signals etc. blocking part of the lane;
      • they tend to be short and you'll have to make extensive use of pedestrian crossings and sidewalks to get from one bike lane segment to the next.
    • Pedestrians are legally allowed to, and will use the bike lane for jogging, running, baby carriages... or just because they feel like it, and there's nothing you can do about it. Most will let you pass if you use e.g. your bicycle bell, but still.

Finally: at least 21 cyclist were killed by cars in Spain just in the first 5 months of 2017. That's almost one cyclist killed on the road every week.

So no, not safe. Rather the opposite of safe.

EDIT (as per the comments below): I'm not saying Spain is any more dangerous for cyclists than other countries. I don't have info about other countries. I'm just saying that Spain is, objectively, not safe: it lacks the infrastructure, it lacks the regulation, and it lacks the culture for cyclists to be able to ride safely on roads and cities.

EDIT 2: A couple more facts.
According to a 2009 study on cyclists' safety made by RACE (RACE is Spain's equivalent to Netherlands' ANWB or UK's AA):

  • 80% of cyclists said good roads don't exists;
  • 72% said cars don't keep legal safe distance of 1,5 m.;
  • 56% said cars don't slow down when overtaking them;
  • 44% said cars don't respect right of way of cyclists;
  • 99% said car drivers' attitude must change for cycling to be safe;
  • and finally, 72% of Spanish cyclists declared to find themselves in danger frequently or very frequently while riding.
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    Important to compare that to 4-5 non-cyclist fatalities on the roads every day though. It isn't totally safe, but I see no evidence it is more dangerous than most other countries (NL excepted). – Mark Perryman Nov 30 '17 at 8:29
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    @MarkPerryman Important to compare the number of non-cyclist vs cyclist vehicles on the road every day, then: 1 cyclist out of 1000/week is still more than 30 non-cyclists out of 100000/week (just an example, not actual numbers). Of course, without data from other countries I can't (and I didn't) say Spain is more dangerous to cyclists than average. But a monkey with a gun not being more dangerous than most other monkeys with guns, doesn't mean the monkey with a gun is safe to be around of. Spain is objectively not safe for cyclists; how safe other countries are is irrelevant. – walen Nov 30 '17 at 8:56
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    If you are claiming that cycling on the road is inherently "not at all" safe, then I disagree. Hundreds of thousands ride in the UK every day, and I expect the same to be true across Europe. Mostly on shared roads. The information about the lack of cycle paths is good, but being generally down on cycling in general doesn't help decide about whether Spain in particular is dangerous. Spain's roads are safer than many, so the question comes down to "would you cycle on the road at home?" If so, then yes, you would consider Spain safe. If not, then you wouldn't. – Mark Perryman Nov 30 '17 at 10:43
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    @MarkPerryman "[Many] ride in the UK every day, and I expect the same to be true across Europe." Why? That's just your expectation based on your UK experience, not facts. You're taking for granted that e.g. drivers in all Europe are as respectful of cyclists on shared roads as UK drivers are, but that may not be the case; just as roads safer for cars does not equal roads safer for cyclists. And finally: «the question comes down to "would you cycle on the road at home?"» What?? No, OP asked about going from Malaga to Barcelona. Nothing to do with cycling back home from work. – walen Nov 30 '17 at 11:25
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    @walen I have been long-distance bicycling in some 15 European countries, most of them lacking any infrastructure for bicycles or cultural mindfulness and only a very few times not been confident about my security. I have never been bicycling in Spain, but refuse to believe that Spanish car drivers are generally more reckless than e.g. in south-eastern Europe (Greece, Turkey, Bulgaria). The number of fatalities you mention seem to me rather low. In Germany, about 400 bicyclists are killed in traffic each year, despite an extensive network of bicycle lanes separated from motorized traffic. – Tor-Einar Jarnbjo Nov 30 '17 at 12:22
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Safe is never absolute, and with proper planning I'd do it. I've ridden quite a lot in the UK and much less in Spain, so would be cautious to start with (even between different cities a few hours ride apart in the UK the culture of drivers around cyclists varies -- as does cyclists' behaviour/culture).

A couple of tools that may be useful to you:

  • Strava's route builder (you'll need to log in but it's free and not onerous) has the setting "global heatmap" to show which routes are popular with cyclists, it also has an option to "use popularity" and automatically route along commonly-ridden roads. I've found it to be unresponsive when trying to route more than about 100 km, so you'll need to apply some manual planning (possibly using Google routes to pick which towns you'll pass through)

  • OpenCycleMap shows official routes and cycle paths. This is based on OpenStreetMap (i.e. crowd-sourced) data. Here in the UK that's very good for cycling, but I'm less sure of the situation in Spain.

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Statistics are collected on cycling deaths by the European Commission.

https://ec.europa.eu/transport/road_safety/sites/roadsafety/files/pdf/statistics/dacota/bfs20xx_dacota-swov-cyclists.pdf

From this we see many, many things including that Spain has a fairly low rate per million population but its deaths seem to be concentrated less in urban areas than the EU norm. Of course what these figures do not adjust for is the number of journeys made by bicycle in each country.

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    That last line is the most important of the who answer. If nobody is on a bike ever, nobody will be killed as a cyclist. If only 10 people per year cycle and the number of death of cyclists is 10/year, you have a very dangerous method of transport. Without that number of journeys/milage done number this site is useless. – Willeke Nov 30 '17 at 17:54
  • @Willeke and indeed the opinions of anyone based on his/her personal experience are subject to similar biases. At least the numbers of deaths are facts but they lack the necessary background information to interpret them in a scientific way. – mdewey Nov 30 '17 at 18:43

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