Location: Madrid, Spain
Started bike commuting: May 2011, though I’ve been using my bike to get around town (just not to work) since 2009
Commute distance (one way): 10 kilometers
Describe your commute: I was slow in deciding to commute by bike because I have very good public transport options to get to the school where I work just outside Madrid. But then a group of cyclists in Madrid decided to help people plan their bike routes to work and try them out on the weekend. I jumped at the opportunity. They showed me a route using quieter streets and since the day I started I haven’t looked back.
I cross Madrid from south to north, and, rather than using the Paseo de la Castellana–the multi-lane traffic-clogged artery that extends the distance of my commute, I climb some hills through beautiful Retiro Park and then use a series of smaller streets that run parallel to the Castellana. I go through some of the nicest neighborhoods in the city, around several good roundabouts, and have plenty of lights to wait for. Once I’m at the northern end of Madrid, I lock my bike and catch a bus for a quick 15-minute ride the rest of the way (highway).
My morning ride is steadily uphill so the way back, which uses similarly quiet streets on the other side of the Castellana, is a nice downhill cruise. I ride right past Santiago Bernabéu stadium (home of Real Madrid) and the national congressional building. The way in takes me 50 minutes and the way home about 45, which is a bit longer than using public transport the whole way, but so worth it.
I aspire to ride all the way to school in the near future, so I can avoid the traffic jams that sometimes I catch on the bus, but there are some tricky spots near the school that I have to work out how to navigate.
Describe your bike and accessories: This summer I was in Berlin and fell in love with the bikes at a shop called Boetzow Rad Berlin and came home with one. They use Velo de Ville models (mine is the T25), and then customize them. I swapped out the gear shifters for rapid fire and upgraded to an 8-gear Nexus internal hub rather than the 7. The bike came with a rack, SKS fenders, a hub dynamo, and Schwalbe Marathon Allround tires.
I use a Detours Toto pannier, which is sometimes filled to bursting with books and exams. I also add weight with two heavy-duty locks–I’ve already had one bike stolen in this city and am not ready to part with this one–one is an OnGuard Bulldog DT and the other is an Abus Granit X-Plus. So far the locks seem to have scared off any potential thieves.
What bit of advice would you like to share with new bike commuters?: Well, though I’m relatively new myself, I’ve learned a thing or two in these months. I’d say you have to be confident. Stand your ground. Be seen. Signal. Respect other drivers and they’ll respect you. Treat pedestrians as you’d like to be treated. Try not to get too worked up when you cross paths with a jerk. Be careful in the rain, and don’t feel obligated to ride daily–it should always be something that makes you happy. You’ll probably find that it quickly becomes an addiction.