Riding two abreast

Cycling two abreast in Valencia

Legal and Safety 

As is the case in many countries, there are often quite a lot of grey areas in our knowledge about what is and what is not legally-permissible when cycling on public roads in Spain, which can lead to a degree of uncertainty about what we can and cannot do when we are out riding our bikes. 

In our "Legal and Safety" articles, we'd like to help shed some light on what, to the best of our knowledge, are our legal rights and obligations when out and about on our bikes in Spain. 

We hope they'll be of use to you. However, we are not lawyers, nor do we offer professional legal advice, so please don't take our word for it and, as always, we recommend you consult a responsible adult before taking any action in relation to doing anything whatsoever. Just in case. 

So, having said that.....

Is it legal to ride two abreast on Spanish roads?

If you're anywhere near being a regular cyclist, you'll almost certainly be familiar with comments from other road users indicating that cyclists should not ride two abreast on public roads.

Under no circumstances.


And, again, if you're anywhere near being a regular cyclist, you'll almost certainly have learnt that other road users cannot usually be considered a reliable source of advice about what cyclists can and cannot legally do on public roads.

So, where do we find out if it is legal to ride two abreast on Spanish roads?

In the Reglamento General de Circulación artículo 36.2 (General Traffic Regulation Article 36.2), revised on 18/07/2015, that's where.

Which is fun. All the more so when we find out that the answer is "yes".

According to the mentioned article:

It is forbidden for the vehicles listed in the previous section to circulate two abreast, with the exception of bicycles, which may do so in two parallel columns, keeping as far to the extreme right-hand side of the road as possible and riding in single-file on sections of road with poor visibility, and when there is heavy traffic. When circulating on dual-carriageways, bicycles must always use the hard shoulder, and must under no circumstances occupy the carriageway.

The regulation also gives a group of cyclists the consideration of a single vehicle, exempting its members from the obligation to maintain the reglementary distance between each other, whilst allowing them to overtake other members of the same group.

Hard Shoulder

There is however a little bit of uncertainty in the regulation's definition about when cyclists are to use the hard shoulder, what with that mention of "keeping as far to the extreme right-hand side of the road as possible", and article 36.1 seeming to contradict article 36.2 when stating:

in the absence of a dedicated route, or a dedicated part of the carriageway, (bicycles) are to use the right-hand shoulder, if the shoulder is useable and of sufficient size. To the contrary, they are to use the necessary part of the carriageway.

Hmmm.... . So.... cyclists are to keep as far right "as possible", use the hard shoulder, when there is one, unless they can't, in which case....the "necessary part of the carriageway".

The clue is in the terms "as possible", "useable", "the necessary part" and, to a lesser degree, "of sufficient size", all of which are open to interpretation, as a fat tyre bike rider's "useable" may well be a roadie's minefield, and "the extreme right-hand side of the road as possible" will almost certainly be interpreted differently by motor vehicle drivers and by cyclists, and possibly by the police, too.

"The necessary part of the carriageway"...... . How do you quantify that in a manner that is universally acceptable?

And what about a trike....?

But, anyway, is any of this important?

Well....it is if we are (legally) riding two abreast, but can't fit both files of riders onto the hard shoulder and we don't want to get fined and/or into arguments/collisions with other, "informed" road users.

Such things have been known to happen.

The regulation doesn't ever really get around to clearing up this doubt, but general practice and policing would suggest that a group of cyclists riding on a road with a narrow/unuseable(no hard shoulder would be alright using the carriageway.

You may not be safe from the attentions, verbal and otherwise, of certain road users, but you should in most cases, regulation in hand, be on the right side of the law.

Of course, the regulation also introduces certain conditions and exceptions relative to riding two abreast. For example, two abreast means just that: in rows of two, not more, no hogging of the road; and riding two-abreast is not allowed when doing so would cause an obstruction to traffic or when there is poor visibility.

But this is surely a matter of common sense.

However, and this should be obvious, although as cyclists we are allowed to ride in double file, it is wise to remember that it is in everybody's interest that we help drivers when they are overtaking us. Not only will the car in question be in front of us (which is usually preferable to it being behind us), it is also just possible that driver may remember our help and act accordingly the next time they meet a group of cyclists on the road.

Be safe, always count to ten, and don't forget to read our disclaimer.

Michael Dixon

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