Today I remembered that I forgot to write about when I was stopped by the police.
It was between Murcia and Teruel, I think when I was approaching the town of Almansa. As an aside Almansa had a big sign claiming to be ‘the town of the bicycle’, for the life of me I could not see why. They were very friendly to me in the cafe I stopped in when they found out I was cycling though. Before reaching the town though I was quite happily cycling along under a grey overcast sky hoping it wouldn’t rain when the Guardia Civil pulled up alongside me. Winding down their window the driver asked me (in Spanish obviously) where my cycle helmet was. Now before setting out on this trip I didn’t know that in Spain (and France too apparently) there is a law which says that outside of cities and towns you legally have to wear a cycle helmet. I haven’t brought a helmet with me for a number of reasons which I don’t feel I need to explain as it should be my choice.
Anyhow I politely informed the police officer that I was English and didn’t have one. Upon hearing this he looked grave and motioned to say that he would need to give me a ticket. Now although when I left the UK I had no idea about helmet laws I had been told in Valladolid that you were supposed to have one when cycling in the country. However I wasn’t about to let the police officer know that so I played ignorant and expressed my dismay asking if it was illegal in a shocked manner. This seemed to diffuse the situation somewhat and the two officers in the car informed me that it was, and in France too. They then pointed to their flourescent tops and told me that I should also be wearing a hi-viz jacket when riding in the rain. I bit my tongue slightly here and didn’t argue the point that it wasn’t actually raining. Instead I excitedly told them that I had one of those! My warmshowers host in Valladolid had insisted that he give me a hi-viz jacket and actually told me to buy a helmet in Madrid, advice which I had ignored. I’d worn the hi-viz on a handful of occasions in bad visibility and fading light.
So as we had stopped at the side of the road by this point I started to pull the hi-viz jacket out of my bag. The Guardia Civil were obviously satisfied that I was complying and without another word drove off, clearly the hi-viz was sufficient. Now I should of course take the view that the police were just looking out for my well being. However I have since spoken to a few people about this encounter who have suggested that the police were probably bored as it’s very rare to get stopped for not having a helmet. In addition although I don’t know this to be a fact the consensus is that the fine is not an on the spot one and therefore the fact I was English was probably a good enough reason for them not to write me a ticket. Will I travel with a cycle helmet in future after this incident? The answer is no, it is still my view that it should be personal choice!