Are flashing bicycle lights legal on Spanish roads?

Fine for using flashing bicycle lights in Spain

Legal and Safety 

As is the case in many countries, there are quite a lot of grey areas about what is and what is not legally-permissable 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. 

We hope they'll be of use to you. However, 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. 

Are flashing bicycle lights legal on Spanish roads?

Well may you ask: we might not like them, but they are certainly an effective way of indicating a cyclist's presence on a public road.

And as is so often the case, the answer is not always as clear as we would like.

A sizeable increase in the number of people cycling and certain somewhat outdated traffic regulations regarding bicycles are factors that are common to many countries today, and Spain is certainly no exception, as borne out by the recent public outcry regarding the prohibition to use flashing bicycle lights on Spanish roads.

Largely overlooked and languishing in the grey area of urban (cycling) legend for quite some time, Spanish traffic regulations relative to the use, and/or prohibition, of flashing bicycle lights were brought to the general public's attention in February when the Civil Guard fined a 78-year cyclist from Ourense, northern Spain, 200 euros for riding with a flashing rear light.

The article under which cycling veteran Gonzalo López Casanova was fined referred to the obligatory use of non-flashing, white rear lights in conditions of reduced visibility, i.e., between dusk and dawn, poor weather, in tunnels, etc. The somewhat ambigiously-worded article did not actually indicate the prohibition of flashing, red lights, but neither did it expressly authorise their use.

Surprised as he was by the fine, López Casanova was equally as taken aback by the media repercussion of his case, which quickly spread from cycling forums to the Internet and the general press.

Seemingly a widespread sore point for many, the cycling community was quick to react to the case, and within hours more than 20,000 signatures had been obtained via in favour of a change in the regulations. López Casanova was also contacted by the Spanish Professional Cyclists Association, which provided him with legal advice.

Such was the reaction that the Directorate-General of Traffic (DGT) communicated via Twitter its intention to look into the future application of the regulation:

"#DGT is aware of the need for information in relation to flashing #bicycle #lights. We aim to issue an appropriate response shortly in favour of the safety of cyclists, which make up a vulnerable collective of road users."

You can read that DGT Twitter statement, in Spanish, here.

Indeed, the lack of clear information was one of the issues pointed out by López Casanova: "It's a very unhappy state of affairs. I mean, I've been riding my bike for years and I'd never heard about flashing bicycle lights being prohibited".

True to their word, on March 6th the Director of the DGT, Gregorio Serrano, issued a statement via Twitter indicating a change in the regulations to permit the use of flashing bicycle lights on public roads:

"Today I signed an Order aimed at favouring the protection of cyclists on public roads through the use of flashing red lights. Cyclists make up a vulnerable collective that merit our complete attention. In all cases, prudence and compliance with the applicable regulations represent the best means of protection".

And you can read that DGT Twitter statement, in Spanish, here

So, it would seem, flashing red bicycle lights are permitted on Spain's public roads. Or at least, they are not prohibited. And, it would seem, López Casanova has since had his fine cancelled.....

Michael Dixon

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