Gibraltar and its hatred of cyclists.

According to wikipedia, Gibraltar is the 5th highest densely populated country in the world.  According to figures up to 10,000 people per day cross the border from Spain to work there, and Gibraltar receives nearly 12 million tourists per year off cruise ships, flights and day trippers from the Costa Del Sol.  Thats a lot of people in a small place.  As you can imagine, things get somewhat congested, especially on its little road network.

Other cities have dealt with their congestion problems by implementing succesful cycle schemes and a positive attitude towards cycling.   36% of people in Copenhagen cycle to work, which is expected to rise to 50%  That would be 250,000 people braving northern european weather every day to get to work.

So why the difference in attitude in Gibraltar?  Well I don’t know if its the Mediterranean sun or not, but it turns everyone into lazy bastards.   Those that do choose small two wheeled vehicles would rather take a motorised one.  Gibraltar is polluted with endless motos tearing through its narrow streets, they are loud and smokey.   These motos are at a virutal war with Gibraltars other favorite form of transport.  The 4×4 SUVs which squeeze and scrape their way through tiny back rounds, and clog up parking.    There is a real case of keeping up with the Jones’ and, the bigger the car you can get, the better!  I have personally known locals who have admitted to driving their Range Rover Sports or X6s just 500 meters every day because they couldn’t be bothered to walk it.

Some attribute their ridiculous oversized car purchase to the excuse of “We drive out to Spain a lot”  But the reality is, due to the increased tensions with the Spanish government, a lot of Gibraltarains have boycotted the country.   Their 5 litre off roaders will be lucky to see a 1000km in their time.

So with all these scooters and big diesel cars chugging around a densily populated area, you can imagine that getting from A to B is a difficult task. Noise pollution and pollution from cars is terrible.  Everyone blames it on the refinery in La Linea, but maybe congested city roads are also a cause of one of the highest rates of cancer in Europe.  Their roads are also crumbling under the weight, but they are so essential, it is impossible to close them to repair them.

Isn’t it about time Gibraltar developed a cycle scheme to cut down their congestion and increase the health of their population?  Absolutely.

And infact, they tried to.  The previous government implemented the Gibibikes scheme, which ended up being a total failure.  Why? Because you had to pre-register to use it.  Convincing a lazy population to switch from a luxury car, or the convenience of a moped is a mammoth task in itself. Forcing them to pre-register so they could use a bike, just creates that extra step that no one is going to be bothered to do.   Why not just have it like they do in London? Where anyone with a credit card can take a bike? and if it isnt returned they charge you for it!  Simple!  Secondly, there was a lot of complaints over the standard of the bikes.  Out of town Gibraltar gets hilly, and these things got difficult to ride.  Despite that, at the launch I did approach Gibi Bikes to see about doing a fun-ride to the top of the rock for publicity. THEY COULDN’T BE BOTHERED TO EVEN REPLY.  Thirdly the current government just let the scheme rot. Now all you see are empty gibi bikes stands with no bicycles, and of course its impossible to obtain a card.  RIP Gibi Bikes!

Next up.  The Royal Gibraltar Police then decided to REMOVE THE CYCLE LANE at the Frontier.   The problems at Gibraltars border has long been an issue, and has gained much international publicity over last year when Spain decided an 8 hour queue for cars was an appropriate crossing time.  They’ve also cracked down on smuggling from mopeds and have formed huge queues of up to 2 hours for exiting gibraltar on a motorbike.  This, however did not cause a problem for cyclists.  Cyclists dont have documents to be inspected, nor do they have luggage compartment and other places where contraband could be stashed, so are usually waved straight through with no issue.  There are a number of smugglers that do use bicycles to ferry Cigarettes out of Gibraltar, but these people are so easy to spot that you’d need to be blind to not know who they are.

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Cycle Lane and separate motorbike lane. Now removed by the RGP. The lane has been moved to the centre of the loop due to the Guardia Civil complaining.

But for us law abiding citizens, who choose to commute into Gibraltar via bicycle, we are now left with no choice.  During times of a heavy motorbike queue, we are forced to join the back of it.  This is depiste the RGP telling the Gibraltar Chronicle two years ago that it was UNSAFE for Bicycles to be in the “motorbike crush” as they proudly announced their bicycle lane.  Now suddenly it must be safe again, as any bicycle attempting to circumnavigate the queue looking for their lane are sent to the back.  And if you complain, you could be arrested for trying to breach the peace.

Not only that, despite there being a tonne of motorcycle parking at the border, there is no bicycle parking. I was told under no uncertain terms by the RGP that if I was to lock my bike up at the border, it would be taken by them.  In fact there are signs everywhere saying no cycle parking.

So during times of heavy motorbike queues, cyclists are simply forced to join them.   The RGP make no effort to tell people to turn their engines off. Motorbikes and mopeds sit there chugging out fumes in the heat and cyclists are forced to breathe it in, when they create no fumes themselves.  They are forced to sit and wait as the Guardia Civil check each and every single moped in front of them, only to be waved straight through.  If Gibraltar want to clear more people out of there in a shorter amount of time, then they must re-instate the cycle lane.

queue

 

The motorcycle queue. The RGP admitted this was unsafe, but now force cyclists into it anyway.

 

I hear you saying.. but why should cyclists get priority? Well that goes back to what I was saying earlier about the congestion problems. Surely if you’re sitting there in your 4×4 SUV or on your smokey moped watching hundreds of cyclists getting out of the queue much quicker than you are, then maybe it may help convince you to change your mode of transport to something more environmentally friendly and healthier for you?

But nope, it seems the attitude of Gibraltar and its people is tough shit.  They don’t care about their own roads being congested, as long as they can carry on their lazy selfish lives.  Furthermore they are so shit scared of the Guardia Civil that the minute they complained about problems at the fence, they moved the motorbike lane into the centre of the loop.  This now means that cyclists and motor cycles are forced to cut infront 2 lanes of moving cars TWICE to get into the queue, which is totally unsafe.

I firmly believe that in order to cope with its congestion problems, in town and at the border, Gibraltar needs to start encouraging the use of bicycles.  Most people are too scared to cycle in Gibraltar due to the sheer number of cars.  Most people are just too lazy.

But cycling is the most convenient way around.  I get from the other side of La Linea into Gibraltar Europort in just 20 minutes.  I am healthier for it, it costs me nothing in fuel and there is never a problem finding parking.  My entire journey is flat and its an easy cycle.  But if I’m going to be made to sit behind smokey motorbikes for hours to exit Gibraltar and have no option to leave my bike and collect it later, then I might as well sit in the comfort of an air conditioned car whilst I wait.

So I of course wrote to the RGP about the removal of the cycle lane.  THEY DIDNT BOTHER TO REPLY.   Yup, thecacy don’t care.

So, my advice.  Take your car into Gibraltar. Don’t waste your lungs trying to do the right thing by cycling in.  You’ll be met by other car drivers that hate you, and a police force and government that does not want cyclists on its roads.  You’ll be forced to sit behind motorbikes pumping out fumes and the RGP will not tell them to turn their engines off, and if you leave your bike, the police will steal it.  I  hope Gibraltars roads crumble into the sea as a result.

No, seriously I hope for a change in attitude and policy in Gibraltar.  I hope one day, like first world cities, they will catch up and realise the importance of getting people out of cars onto bicycles to cut down their congestion, and improve the environment and air that we all have to breathe.  Until then, forget it – go for a nice bike ride in Spain instead!

 

 

 

 

Longest bike ride I have ever done!

In 2010 I decided to cycle from where I live now (Gibraltar) back to where I used to live (Yorkshire, UK).  Some 1600 miles across Spain and France that took 3 weeks.  Done completely solo.  It was all done in aid of Gibraltar Cancer Relief and the Jane Tomlinson Appeal.

Why did I do it?  Well I was bored of staring at computers all day in the office, had been tremendously inspired by Mark Beaumont in his cycling documentaries and had just taken up the sport. So thought why not!  Why the cancer charities? Well my mum got given a full bill of health that very year after suffering cancer herself and coming through it completely in tact. So its thanks to the tireless efforts of these groups that she is still around and was there to see me cross the finish line. So I’m eternally greatful.

The Gibraltar to Yorkshire story as told by the media is here:

 

 

The full website with the day to day blog, more pictures etc is at http://www.gibraltartoyorkshire.co.uk