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.


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.



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!





La Linea de la Concepcion – A love hate relationship.

La Linea.   A town that sits in southern Spain bordering Gibraltar.

To the north, beautiful San Roque,  and Castellar.  To the east, the upmarket Sotogrande and the very popular Costa Del Sol.  To the west Tarifa, the surfing capital of Europe and the Costa Luz.  To the south the prosperous British Territory of Gibraltar.

So why, and how is La Linea sitting there in the centre looking like a shit stain on the map?   Why does it only have 60% of its work-capable population in a job? Leading to other major social problems such as tobacco smuggling, and a higher crime rate than its neighbours.

As a none speaking Spanish outsider who has only been living down here for a few years, I am incredibly naive in any reasons or understanding. But I can say what I can see, and I see a filthy town crumbling apart.  It is no coincidence that since moving from Estepona to make commuting easier for work, not one person has returned after visiting from the UK.  The place looks, and feels like a shit hole.  It seems to do everything it can to stay in the past, rather than take a slice of the wealth from its neighbours.


You can’t sit and have a cafe con leche in the main squares without beggers pestering you.   Coming out of Gibraltar you are welcomed by crowds which I call “The La Linea welcome committee”  They are basically dodgy looking people waiting for their comrades to come out of Gibraltar with more tobacco.  As for walking through the town late at night.  I speak from experience where I say DONT.  Because I was a victim of mugging a few months ago, which is unfortunately a regular occurrence here.

Despite the undesirables, the grime, and crappy apartment blocks. La Linea actually has a huge foreign population with British, and other European nationals descending on the town and setting in roots.  Why? Because its easy to get to Gibraltar from there for work.  If it wasn’t for Gibraltar I am pretty sure that no one would elect to  move to another country and choose this place.    But despite these foreign populations coming in. The town holds fast to its old fashioned Spanish routes.  Despite English speaking Gibrlatar being next door, you will not find anyone who can speak English in La Linea.  We’re not just talking coffee shop staff either. I’ve head to deal with doctors, police and other higher scale people and no one could (or were unwilling to) speak a word of English.  Even the Spanish Police on the border refuse to speak any English.   I understand the argument, why should they?  Yes its Spain, you should learn Spanish etc.  But go up the road a bit to the Costa Del Sol where the British have practically took over and a lot of Spanish people there are willing and happy to try speaking English so that they can engage with people who are bringing money to the area.

This is what I don’t understand. Why not engage with people who are bringing money to the area?  Take people coming from Gibraltar for instance. The Guardia Civil make them sit in hours of queues to go in, and then there are numerous spates of vandalised cars.  Its as if the town is saying “We don’t want your money”  Well, considering the town council couldn’t afford to pay its workers and had debts of millions of euros. I think they’re not in a position to choose who’s money they want. They should try and get what they can!  Their attitude of sticking to the past is just going to have to change!


Damaged streets still not repaired 5 years later.

Here’s another thing I don’t understand.  A town with such visible poverty as La Linea suddenly comes alive in the evening.  You go into the centre, down the main streets and you can be struggling to get a seat if you want a coffee.  It is heaving with people.  We recently went to a fish restaurant which sits near La Atunara, perhaps one of the worst of the areas and by 9.30pm people were queuing out of the door waiting for a table.   Go to the main Mercadona supermarket on a saturday morning and you can be struggling to find a trolley its so busy.  And people aren’t just buying the necessities.  I see people with cakes and allsorts of ‘extras’ in their trolleys.  Are people really that poor?  If so how are they so poor with Gibraltar soaking up thousands of jobs, a huge industrial fuel refinary down the road and the Costa Del Sol nearby too.  It doesn’t make sense!

Its a town with two sides of the coin.  There are some very amazing bars and restaurants tucked away in the corners.   La Patagonica serves some of the best Argentinian meat I have ever had.  Gold Indian is the best curry house I’ve ever been to, and Wok Real just outside of town is the best Chinese all you can eat buffet place I have ever been to.   Where I say the best, I don’t just mean here. I mean anywhere I’ve been in the world.

Every July the fun fayre comes to town. There are huge parades down the main street, and a whole section of the town is closed off whilst rides are built. They spend weeks building this thing, for it to be only open for a week.   It is probably one of the best Spanish ferias i’ve been to as well.  Its huge, and they have the Casitas, which are the huge tents with the night clubs.  It also brings in the crowds. With people spending huge amounts of money on flamenco style dresses which they proudly wear. The atmosphere is amazing.   Shortly after feria, its Domingo Rociero. Where everyone takes to the streets drinking Tinto Verano. Once again, an amazing atmosphere and this town simply knows how to party!   There is never any racial aggravation and everyone is welcome!  The town has a real charm to it as well.  Its got character and its not superfiscious unlike Sotogrande which is just full of snobs..


Domingo Rociero Street party! Throwing wine around!

My own Spanish neighbours seem to be really nice people. I wish I could get to know them more, but there is the language barriers in the way.  I feel we’ve been welcomed as much as possible from the neighbours.  They’ve not gone out of their way or anything, but they certainly aren’t upset about us being there and have exchanged plenty of pleasantries.  In fact we found one of the neighbours lost cat a few months ago, and she came round the next day with a cake she baked as a thank you!  It was very unnecessary!

When I first moved to Spain, I seemed to move house about once every year.  Whereas I’m coming up to three years in La Linea now. So the town can’t be all that bad.  Its just a great place to be if you’re working in Gibraltar. As there is no need to drive anywhere.  Not too much worries about the border when cycling over.  Plus there is quite a lot of people down here. So socially its very good. Can have drinks after work and not worry about having to drive home.  Taxi home is cheap enough.

So yes, I exchanged my brand new 400 euro a month apartment with air conditioning, sea views, sky tv, and swimming pool in a luxury urbanisation, for an old 625 euro 2 bedroomed house in an shit hole of a town that refuses to modernise.  Gone are the luxuries but its a trade off with convenience.  But that is it. I am only in La Linea because its convenient, and because of that., other people, especially those whom don’t have a car or don’t drive are also in La Linea because its convenient which then creates good social circles.

I used to live in Estepona, and although it was beautiful.  I found myself driving all that way for a bed.  No one else lived up there and as such I was coming back to Gibraltar/La Linea for social events anyway.

So yes, I love this place, but I hate it at the same time.  I want to get out, but if I did, I will miss it.  If it was possible to unzip Gibraltar from the bottom of this hole, and stick it onto the bottom of Estepona. The world would be an amazing place!



Moving to Spain in 2007

So for those that know me, you’ll know I live in Spain and work over the border in Gibraltar.

I took the decision to move out here back in 2007 when a relationship I was in took a bit of a nose dive. Although attempts were made to salvage the relationship, it just wasn’t going to work out.  I decided to do something crazy and just jump on a plane and move out to Spain, by myself, without knowing anyone here and without even knowing the area.  I had been here just twice before for short holidays.

People think I’m crazy and/or brave for having made such a bold move. It was just more exciting than anything else at the time.  “You moved out here by yourself!?”  Yeah.. and?  Well if anyone knows me, once I get a project on the go, I go and do it and I don’t care what it takes.  Whether that be moving out to Spain or cycling all the way home again. I don’t rely on anyone for anything and quite happy to undertake these mammoth challenges by myself.  – In fact I feel more confident without relying on other people. Because, well, other people can really let you down!

When I was 18, I kinda really messed things up. I got tangled up in a few things and never went to University.  It’s not so much the qualifications I miss, it was the social side I miss.  So I guess this move out was a way to make up for that. Oh boy I did. I met some great friends and went wild for the first year or two.  In a new area you can forget who you are for a while and be whoever you want. No one knows any history of you, and what you are or aren’t capable of, so you can stick on a mask and be whatever you want. Which is awesome for a while!

Moving out here was the best thing I ever did, and although I sometimes get strong desires to go home, even if I did return to the UK. I will still put this project down as a huge success.  7 years I’m still here and I am way better for it.

Before I left I got a new camera and made some horrendously cringe worthy videos of the very early days.  They’re on youtube anyway so might as well link them here:

Goodbyes from everyone:

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Just Landed (first couple of days)

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Where I settled in Estepona (before moving further down the coast to a shit hole called La Linea.)

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And finally, talking about me going wild on the first couple of years. Here’s a video from 2008 of me managing to down an entire pint of lager in one go.  Criiinge and I’ve got sensible now in my old age. Some really fun times with some great friends. It’s just a shame none of these guys are around any more.

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