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PM and Popular Party candidates enjoy two-wheeled photo op

Rajoy takes a ride with his party’s hopefuls for Madrid mayor and regional premier

Mariano Rajoy, Esperanza Aguirre (r) and Cristina Cifuentes (l) in Madrid Río.
Mariano Rajoy, Esperanza Aguirre (r) and Cristina Cifuentes (l) in Madrid Río.G. Lejarcegi

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy braved the scorching temperatures in the Spanish capital on Wednesday morning to take a bike ride through the Madrid Río park, flanked by his Popular Party’s candidates for mayor, Esperanza Aguirre, and regional premier, Cristina Cifuentes.

Taken on electric bicycles from the city’s rental system, the ride took him to a park in the Arganzuela district, where he was to preside a campaign rally ahead of local and regional elections due to take place on May 24.

A photo opportunity on bikes is something of a ritual for Madrid election campaigns

A photo opportunity on bikes is something of a ritual for Madrid election campaigns, despite the fact that neither of the PP’s candidates has exactly come out in support of the mode of transport before. The former mayor of Madrid, Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón (PP, 2003-2011), spent many years promising to implement a bike-rental service, but left office without finishing the job – and that was despite having invested €10 billion in infrastructure in the city during his two mandates.

It was his replacement, current mayor Ana Botella, who put the BiciMad system into place in 2014, as well as creating a bike lane that runs from the Madrid Río park in the south of the city to the O’Donnell neighborhood in the east. While the route is not exclusively for bicycles, the sections shared with traffic have 30km/h speed limits for vehicles.

Aguirre has announced she will give Madrileños free rein to drive their cars throughout the city center

For her part, Esperanza Aguirre has promised to promote the use of bikes in the city, but for now her only other intention announced regarding transport is to give Madrileños free rein to drive their cars throughout the city center, as opposed to Gallardón and Botella’s plans to restrict traffic in certain congested areas and promote public transport and pedestrianized zones.

Botella, who decided several months ago not to run in the upcoming elections, was not present at Wednesday’s photo opportunity. The candidates and the prime minister, who will be up for reelection himself later this year, used the BiciMad electric bicycles, meaning little pedaling was needed. However, Madrileños hoping to emulate the politicians might be disappointed to learn that there are as yet no BiciMad rental stations in the Madrid Río Park.

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