27 March 2012

Spanish Police Harass Father on Bicycle

Oliver Green and his daughters. Photo: Courtesy of Oliver Green.
Here's the latest update from Oliver:

Last update before heading out for the Easter break.
I finally received a call from the town hall - the Councilor for Safety from the ruling People's Party wants to meet with me together with the Head of the Municipal Police to discuss my complaint. They're gonna have to wait till after the holiday though as we're heading out later today.
I had a productive meeting with David Cierco councilor and spokesperson for the local Socialist Party group in Pozuelo. Like the UPyD they too have cycling and bike lanes high on their agenda (http://www.gmspozuelo.org/pozuelo-dinamico/) but is is very hard to get through in this town as the PP has had an absolute majority for the last 30 years... What I really found quite surprising was their claim that the PP in Spain is anti-bike because they see the car as progress and as central to their model of urban development while the bike is for poor people… Maybe I shouldn't be surprised but surely in CPH and Amsterdam whether you ride a bike is not about your political belief and if it is this needs addressing - surely driving a car or taking a walk doesn't depend on your political persuasion! IMHO, to be successful the bike as urban transport must cut through political ideology, class, colour and creed just as the car has done.

Here's the latest update from Oliver. Be sure to read the comments. Lots of encouragement and good ideas there. Add your own!
Wanted to give you a quick update on the latest events and coverage:

Pablo published this piece in his blog today - very good because he was able to clearly explain that my bike is legal and why the Spanish law needs updating to remove the ambiguity. See here, in Spanish: http://blogs.elpais.com/love-bicis/2012/03/irresponsable.html

Basically there is a traffic law saying that a bike made for one can only carry one minor under 7 in a certified seat behind the rider. The loophole is that it doesn't talk about a bike like mine, built specifically for more than 3 nor tandems, trikes etc. However under this current regulation a child seat behind the handlebars is illegal which is crazy. I've done another extensive interview and photo shoot with another journalist from El País this afternoon. Will let you know when it's published.

I've have a meeting set up with the socialist opposition leader on Monday - he got in touch with me proactively and they are taking up my case as well as the other opposition party.

I was interviewed live on a national TV magazine type program this morning - haven't been able to find the clip for that on Internet yet. Will forward if I do find it - was positive overall.

Tomorrow I'm being interviewed on a local volunteer station (Radiociclista) in Albacete - smallish town near Alicante.

ConBici - the national association that represents 54 regional groups in Spain has nominate me for the "Cyclist of the Year" award :-)

Well that's about it - still got to see whether the town hall will back down - they still say they're gonna fine me and are also calling me a liar and a radical so it might end up in court yet… we'll see

Email from Oliver:
OK, so we made the national news today and a major national radio station - however they are spinning that my bike is not legal in Spain due to some crazy ass regulation - The regulation states that a bike made for one can carry only one child in a certified child seat. However, as the local councilors I met pointed out, my bike is not made for one but three.


Meanwhile, the town hall are not backing down - they say they're going to fine me for riding an illegal bike, putting my children at risk etc….they don't care that it is perfectly ok and normal in other countries - bit of a shitstorm really. Oh well, will keep fighting this, I have the support of the community and common sense.

Can anyone help out with regulations in Spain or EU about bicycles? Any information?!

Oliver emailed me last night:
Wow, what a day… the comments still keep pouring in, it's all over the place, twitter, Facebook, meneame - http://www.meneame.net/ (a Spanish site like Digg with over 2000 "meneos" and 206 comments - the top one today in fact), tomorrow two national TV channels are coming to interview me and record our trip to school , a local councilor from one of the opposition parities wants to take it up in the town hall and El Pais want an interview. I can hardly keep up with it :-) Now I need to make sure to get maximum impact - not for my case but for the case of all citizen cyclists (and potential citizen cyclists) - here in Spain!

Good luck, Oliver!

It is this kind of story that can really irritate me. My friend Oliver lives in Spain, outside of Madrid. He's English, but very much repatriated. He has been riding bicycles for years and now he rides his two daughters to school and back again each day.

Something that people do in many places in the world. Apparently the police in his city are very much like the police in many places in the world, too. They obviously have too much time on their hands.

Last week, Oliver dropped off his girls - aged 2 and 5 - and, when he came out of the school, two plainclothes policemen were waiting for him in an unmarked police car. Seriously. Waiting for him. They were in an aggressive mood and stated that his bicycle was not certified to carry two children.

He started a blog to write about it - Pozuelo con Pedales - Pedaling Pozuelo, referring to the town that Oliver lives in - Pozuelo de Alarcón.

The police demanded to see his "ficha tecnica" or vehicle registration, which is of course ridiculous - it's a BICYCLE.

Oliver was furious and when he started complaining about the treatment, they police started harrassing him about riding a section of the route to school on the sidewalk - about 200 m in total. It is technically illegal to do so, but Oliver had decided that committing a minor traffic offence was better than taking chances on a stretch with inadequate infrastructure for cyclists and lack of police enforcement of the 40 km/h speed limit, as well as enforcing the 1.5 m law in Spain.

In fact, the police had previously told him to take the sidewalk one day after picking up the girls from school. So this wasn't the first run-in with the local police. They have been keeping an eye on him and photographing his movements. How bizarre is that?

The story ends - well not really ends - with the police taking his personal data and telling him that they would prepare a report for the City Council and another for Social Services - claiming him to be an irresponsible father.

This is shocking. It's something you expect in Australia, the UK or North America, but in Spain?! Talk about Ignoring the Bull.

Oliver has been riding a bicycle for transportation every day for years and has been taking his kids to school and kindergarten by bicycle since they could sit upright.

Oliver writes on his blog that: "I'm shocked; shocked at having to endure this nonsense and more so while cars get away with all sorts of traffic violations, by the lack of respect for cyclists, the serious lack of adequate infrastructure for cyclists, the waste of tax-payers money and police resources etc, etc... This is in contrast with other Spanish cities such as Vitoria, Barcelona, ​​Seville, Valencia or Majadahonda who are actively promoting the use of the bike. A shame."

So. What can we do about this? First of all, click right here. It's the website for the City of Pozuelo de Alarcón. Let them know we're here with a click. If you can manage the Spanish, here's a form for contacting the Mayor's office.

Now we need to figure out how to get some action, bring these policemen into the spotlight and get the city to take some action. Instead of persecuting a citizen who chooses to ride a bicycle.