• Spanish cyclists seek asylum at European embassies over helmet law
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  • Road safety,
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  • 22.03.2013


protest Valencia

Spanish bicycle advocates are demanding asylum at European embassies across Spain in spain-is-different-webprotest against anti-cycling legislation and compulsory helmet laws. 

Cyclists in seven of Spain’s largest cities appealed for ‘cyclist asylum’ yesterday at over a dozen European embassies and consulates. Representatives from the embassies and consulates of Denmark, the Netherlands, Germany, and France met the cyclists as they delivered letters requesting asylum. Cyclists carried banners saying ‘We are Europeans. Stop anti-cyclist law’ in Spanish, English, German and French.

The cyclists are calling for asylum after the Spanish government announced its intention to prohibit cycling without helmets and force cyclists to always ride on the right side of the lane to make way for faster motor vehicles.

Protests were held in Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Seville, Zaragoza, Marbella, and Palma, and were coordinated by ConBici, Spain’s national cycling organisation.

Antonio Llopez from the Valencia cycling group ‘Valencia en Bici’ said: “Other European nations give cycling a leading role in their cities, but not Spain. The government wants Spain wants to be the only European nation that bans cycling without helmets. This will discourage millions of people from cycling – and so make roads more dangerous for the few who continue.”

Further Reading

-You can read more about ECF’s position on helmets here

-For more information about the anti-cycling legislation being proposed in Spain, read ECF’s recent article

-Our members CTC has written a fantastic piece as well as a call for action here

According to the European Commission, no other countries within the EU have a blanket ban for all ages on cycling without a helmet.

There are an estimated 35 million Europeans that choose cycling as daily mode of transport. Spain only sees about 1.6% of people cycling as their main mode of transport, yet some cities such as Seville have made huge progress with 6% of trips done by bicycle. What’s more, cycling tourism currently represents an estimated €1.5 to 2 billion every year. 

These laws would be a devastating blow to a country which is finally getting more people cycling and it could be a big set-back for an already ailing economy. 

Spain, do the right thing and drop this outrageous legislation. 



About The Author

Ceri Woolsgrove is the ECF Policy Officer for Road Safety & Technical Issues. He is from the UK and has worked extensively in London, Brighton, Liverpool (UK), Hang Zhou (China) and now in Brussels. His previous employment was for an organisation representing the transport industry in Brussels. Ceri has a Master’s degree in Globalization and International Policy Analysis from the University of Bath, and Social and Political Thought from the University of Sussex


  • James Langford

    This is just another in a series of outrages by the right-wing Popular Party here in Spain. They also want to completely ban bicycles from the pavement (sidewalks), which would make parking a bike around town nearly impossible.

  • Alfonso

    As we are on deep crisis, our “beautiful” politicians think that selling cars is the answer to our problems. Please, European people HELP US

  • Kathy Francis

    Good luck Spanish cyclists from an Australian who has had their cycling culture destroyed by the helmet law. Do everything you can to prevent this law being passed. Once enacted they will never repeal it no matter what you do. The rest of Europe needs to support the Spanish on this as any country might be next.

  • Rich Mertl

    Although a helmet law may seem like a serious encroachment on personal liberties the cost to person and society is enormous arising from accidents. I speak from an experience that I do not wish to repeat. I crashed at a slow speed and end ended up hitting my head. Fortunately, I was wearing a helmet and I still ended up with a serious concussion. Discussions with my doctor after a full suite of tests he assured me that there was no permanent damage, BUT, had I not been wearing a helmet he said that the results would not have been the same. At that time he pulled my helment out of a desk drawer and showed me the crushed and broken helmet.
    I strongly urge everyone riding a bike to wear a helmet. I think of like this, Any person who is seriously injured can no longer enjoy the benefits of cycling and perhaps their contributions to society are diminished as well. And for this we all loose.

    • Marta Pombo

      Marta Pombo

      Of course, in special cases such as your type of accident, Rich, a helmet can save someone’s life as it happened with you. In this respect, no one is against helmets, but we’re against its compulsory use. According to this argumentation Michaël de Borman’s absolutely right: if cyclists are forced to wear a helmet so must be car drivers and passengers. Their head injuries are many more and fatal.

      Making cyclist helmets mandatory would be as absurd as doing the same with swimmers, especially all sea swimmers who should always be obliged to wear rubber floats around their bodies.

      What our Spanish government is intending here is to use the helmet argument as one of a series of excuses, all written in this new law draft, to ban cyclists and thus favour car industry and interests alike. This is deeply undemocratic. Is there anything like that in a single European country? Moreover, such cyclist law won’t help us overcome our economic crisis and high unemployment. We need the car industry, yes, but we deeply need the bicycle industry, its business, its jobs, its cycling tourism, etc. PLEASE, DO HELP US!

  • Michaël de Borman


    Although a compulsory helmet law for CAR DRIVERS and CAR PASSENGERS may seem like a serious encroachment on personal liberties, the cost (for both persons and Society) of car accidents resulting in serious brain damages to CAR DRIVERS and CAR PASSENGERS is enormous.

    I strongly urge EVERY CAR DRIVER and PASSENGER to wear a helmet.

    Think of it like this: Any CAR DRIVER and PASSENGER who is seriously injured can no longer enjoy afterwards the benefits and pleasure of CYCLING (and this must be the most terrible punishment on earth !) Only a compulsory helmet law for CAR DRIVERS can help to avoid this.

    Michaël de Borman,
    Bicycle activist in Belgium for 20 years.

    PS: I would grant political asylum to any Spanish cyclist with pleasure but I guess you are more useful in Spain to fight the stupid intention of the Spanish government to prohibit cycling without helmets. (And it’s so damn cold here!)

  • Michaël de Borman

    Although a compulsory helmet law for CAR DRIVERS and CAR PASSENGERS may seem like a serious encroachment on personal liberties, the cost (for both persons and Society) of car accidents resulting in serious brain damages to CAR DRIVERS and CAR PASSENGERS is enormous.

    I therefore strongly urge EVERY CAR DRIVER and CAR PASSENGER to wear a helmet and to join my call to the Spanish and to all Governments in Europe to pass compulsory helmet laws for CAR DRIVERS and PASSENGERS.

    Michaël de Borman,
    Bicycle activist in Brussels/Belgium for 20 years.

  • Mike

    Terrible news. Spanish cyclists you must fight this tooth and nail! In Australia helmet law has been in force since the 90’s. It shows no sign of being repealed and it is off putting to anyone wanting to cycle, especially for short spontaneous trips. Here you really need to plan a trip. Having a piece of polystyrene on your head will do nothing to protect you either if you are slammed by a truck. Having more cyclists on the road however keeps every cyclist safer. Fight, fight, fight! Good luck.

  • Denis Shaw

    This is very odd. Cyclists in the UK demand that safety is paramount and that motor vehicles should be restricted on the grounds of safety – but when a piece of safety legislation affects them they cry ‘unfair’!

Last Updated March 22, 2013