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Rules of the sidewalk

Updated: Jun 28, 2018

Yesterday, I mentioned that I was going to video a little of my morning walk, and I actually hit the record button this time. Unfortunately, it is baaaaddddd and I don't want to give you all horrible vertigo. Rather than sending you running for Zofran, I'll shelve the video and explain a little bit of pedestrian etiquette.

There are 5 primary ways to get around Valencia: metro, bus, car, walking, and bike. The metro is great: clean, timely, and usefully-situated. I took it today down to the Carrer Colon shopping district and made it there in 20 minutes from the door of my apartment to walking out of the metro station. While the metro is used a lot, the bus system seems to be the preferred transportation mode for most folks. I have yet to take a bus--I am not confident navigating the city yet, and since the weather has been gorgeous and I'm enjoying the walk, I have't made the bus system a priority. Cars are common in Valencia, but there isn't a ton of traffic. Most people that live in the city center either bus or walk unless they have to take their cars. Valencia does have a sizable suburban area, and I assume most of the folks that are driving during rush hour are those that live past the metro limits.

That leaves walking and biking which, combined, probably move the most people through the city each day. In the mornings I see several different groups on the streets: people walking their dogs, parents taking their kids to school, posses of teens grabbing coffee before classes, business folks headed to work, and shopkeepers opening their stores. There is always someone on the street, and I've taken pains to temper my American smile at least a little bit as it is not customary here to greet folks with one.

If you choose to power through the city of your own accord, the monthly metro pass here includes a bike-share option called Valenbisi. So long as you get the bike to another Valenbisi station within 30 minutes, there is no additional charge for using a bike. If you haven't made it to your final destination, you can always check it back out, which I suppose would be a total pain...but honestly, there are more bikes than people use and if your feet can't get you there fast enough, it's a great option.

However, there is one big thing that you need to know about proper sidewalk etiquette in Valencia (unfortunately it is not that picking up after your dog is mandatory): do not walk in the bike path.

On the side streets, known as either Calle or Carrer (more on that in a future post), cyclists ride in the street along with the cars. These streets are narrow with cars parked on both curbs, therefore one-way traffic is essential. Avengudas are larger streets, typically three lanes in each direction, one of which is a dedicated EMT/Taxi/Bike lane that is kept clear at most times. The largest streets are Avenidas and these are big and heavily traveled. These arteries move large numbers of cars, buses, and trucks, and almost always have a wide, park-like median running through their centers. Because the lanes are needed to move so much traffic, bike lanes are moved to the wide sidewalks and are denoted by a red path. These lanes are sacrosanct for bikes only, and should NOT be walked in unless you are crossing one and there is no way to avoid it. Don't get caught strolling in one or you will get a dress down in angry Spanish.

To give you a sense of just how seriously people take these bike lanes, bikes and pedestrians have different crosswalks. Though the picture below shows them adjacent to one another, they are sometimes separated by 10 feet or so. I've made it a habit to look both ways before crossing a bike path, just as I would any other street, and thus far I've avoided a scolding.

If you come to Valencia, either to visit us or to enjoy the city on your own, I hope that you'll enjoy the enormously enjoyable walkability of the city...I know I have.


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