Safety in COVID-times. Walking outside is one of the safest things we can do – though logically we need to follow recommendations for prevention. Some of that is personal risk assessment and decision-making, other is straightforward. Here are some things to keep in mind.
Masks: legally required everywhere in public, though for now no stipulation on what kind of masks; that may be coming in the summer. For your own health and others’ health, go for quality and / or double mask. For now, best available in Spain is the FFP2, which filters 95% (European standard very similar to the USA N95). Close behind are masks with Spanish standard UNE 0065/2020, with almost 92% – the masks I’ve seen with this standard are cloth reusuable masks, good for 20 washes or more. Harder to evaluate but pretty good: double layer tightly woven cloth masks with an insertable filter, both the mask and the filter can be washed – one alternative for a filter is using a cut-to-size surgical mask in the filter pocket. Surgical masks are much lower filtration – I have read as low as 40% though that may not be right. Single layer cloth masks are not safe. Doubling up: experts now suggest double masks at very least in riskier situations, with surgical mask under a mask with higher filtration. They also say that more is not better – too many layers and you will not be able to breathe through the mask, so you’ll get unfiltered air from the sides (personal experience trying double masking with an FFP2 and an UNE 0065/2020, couldn’t breathe, switched the FFP2 for a surgical and was fine.) Fit is VERY important – many people have gaps at the side or the top of their masks, especially surgical masks. That can be fixed, but may take some adjustment. One thing that can help fit: hook the earloops onto a plastic/rubber piece that has several hooks and goes behind your head or neck. That lets you adjust the tension against your face, and helps as elastic of reusuable masks get stretched out. And yes, mask needs to cover your nose, best is from bridge of nose to under chin and extending horizontally almost to ears, if at all possible. Important note: when it comes time to discard your mask, please cut off the earloops to minimize possible issues for wildlife.
Public transportation: some of these walks might need at least one ride on public transportation, depending on where you live. This is one of those personal decisions: my personal feeling is that transportation is not a huge risk as long as you avoid rush hour, double mask, do your best to maintain distance and wash or sanitize your hands afterwards.
Madrid Rio: Linear park along the Manzanares river, from the Puente de los Franceses railway bridge in the north to the Matadero in Legazpi, start of the A4 or Andalucia highway. This park was built 2006-2012 to bury part of the M30 ring road, and while there were some unfortunate environmental decisions and huge headaches for residents on the west side of city center, now we have seven kilometers of riverside park with lots of space for walking, biking and skating, kiddie playgrounds, rope gyms, and outdoor cafés.
This description is from Puente de los Franceses to Legazpi, following the river downstream. The park is continuous on the right bank (as the river flows), though interrupted on the left side by the site of the old Vicente Calderón soccer stadium – the original plans for the park included that site once the stadium was torn down (it’s the only bit where the northbound M30 comes up for air), but the stadium project was delayed and it is unclear what will happen on that bank.
Walking the entire distance of seven kilometers will take between 90 – 120 minutes, maybe a bit less for fast walkers.
Navigation: There are kilometer markers in the pavement for most of the length of the park, with zero starting at Puente de los Franceses. There are fairly frequent pedestrian bridges to cross the river and several bridges with car traffic This pamphlet has most though not all the park: https://www.madrid.es/UnidadesDescentralizadas/Educacion_Ambiental/ContenidosBasicos/Publicaciones/MadridRio/MadridR%C3%ADoDesplegable.pdf
Public transportation access points: Metro access at Puente del Rey, which is main access to Casa del Campo park (Metro Principe Pio), bus access at Puente Segovia (25 goes to near Opera), Puente Toledo (metro Marqués de Vadillo and Piramides), and Legazpi (Metro Legazpi).
Tips and tricks:
Puente de los Franceses railway bridge to first bridge over the river with car traffic: best to walk on left bank of the river, the walkway is wider and has better pavement. There is sidewalk on the right bank but in early February 2021 parts were closed with police tape, possible due to tree damage from the snowstorm.
Below Puente de Segovia (stone bridge at bottom end of calle Segovia, car traffic) the right side is generally better. Left side is cut off by site of old stadium between green metal Y-shaped bridge and Puente de Toledo (stone bridge at bottom of calle Toledo, only pedestrian). Below the metal curlicue bridge left side is also nice.
My personal way to end: instead of walking all the way to the end on the walkway, I like to go through the Matadero. To do that, if walking on the right bank take the first of the twin bridges at marker 6,15 kms: when partway across look downstream to understand the name (yes, you can also go over that bridge) and whichever twin bridge you go over, be sure to look up. Once across the bridge spot the brick building with a clocktower to your right and take the downhill walkway with the greenhouse on your left, heading for the tower: you will need to turn left with the greenhouse still on your left and a wall on the right with the brick building behind the wall. At the end of the wall turn right and walk in front of the brick building: this was the administration building for the Matadero and is now City Hall offices for this part of the city – you might even see a wedding party after visiting the Justice of the Peace. Walk straight ahead through the gates into the Matadero area. You will have rows of brick neo-mudejar style buildings on both sides and more over to the right: this is Madrid’s old slaughterhouse, nicely repurposed into a cultural center with a library, cinema, bar, restaurants, theater and more. Look straight ahead to see the old water tower (tall structure on legs) which is your reference for exit to Plaza Legazpi. About halfway along this space there’s and information center on the left. You can get info on upcoming activities or look around this building to see how they’ve done an industrial look while still making the space functional. Bathrooms are in this part of the buildings.
Fun stuff: Two ziplines near south end of park, one on the left bank shortly before reaching the greenhouse, the other on the right bank between the twin bridges, almost directly across from the Matadero Cultural Center. Several rope gyms and playgrounds for smaller kids. Slides-Hill below the metal curlicue bridge left side, not just for kids. Fun fountain-plaza in the summer: paved area with fountains spurting at random times, kids love it (near the bar-café). Skate park on left side near zipline. Bike rental at the Matadero and a few other places along the park.
Bars and bathrooms: Parkside bar-cafés on left bank: two between Puente de los Franceses and first bridge with car traffic, another a little below the metal curlicue bridge. Parkside bar-cafés on right bank: One between Puente del Rey (entrance Casa de Campo) and Puente de Segovia, another two between Puente de Segovia and green metal bridge, another just above the metal curlicue bridge. Most of the right bank park between Puente de Segovia and Legazpi is very close to parallel street with other bar-cafés. Most if not all places have outside seating. Boxy brown porta-potties (not really porta) on right bank at Puente de Segovia, a little above Puente de Toledo, another just above the metal curlicue bridge. These are city-hall equipment, cost 10 cents and yes, are usually immaculately clean (self-clean after each person). Though….. in virus-times these have often been closed. Matadero cultural center has a bathroom (see description for end of the route), and several bar-cafés and a restaurant.
Madrid’s Anillo Verde Ciclista (AVC – Biker’s Green Ring) is a bit of a misnomer. It’s not green in color, nor really environmentally green in the layout, going through mostly developed areas of the city. And it’s not just for bikers – walkers have their space on the entire route. Though in spite of the misnomers, our ring-road is definitely something you should get to know.
What is it / where is it? Our longest walking-biking route is a 64 kilometer ring around the city. Technically it starts in the north at the bike bridge over the A1 highway, with kilometer markers numbered from that point clockwise back to the same point, with rest spots usually with water and benches though (alas) no bathrooms. Most of the route is just inside the M-40 ring-road for cars. It was inaugurated in 2007 and has undergone updates and remodeling – most notably in 2016. While the route has been criticized as being more for recreational cycling than for commuter cycling, it’s a popular route for walkers as well as bikers; the route has three lanes in almost the entire distance, two lanes for bikes and one for walkers. Best to keep to your designated space, but if walking, watch out for bikers, who do not always respect walkers’ space (and yes, walkers sometimes are in the wrong space, too, though less frequently) Note: city hall is working on branch routes leading off the AVC into the center city.
As a long ring road, users can jump on and off depending on personal choice for distance, landscape and location. The route goes by multiple metros stops and several commuter train stops, making it easy to use public transportation on both ends, or to explore different parts of the route on different days.
All that said, some parts of the route are nicer than others. This post explains my personal favorite parts of the route, though other parts are worth trying as well.
Signage / Map: Signage is usually orange columns with kilometer marker from “0” in the north, signage on pavement shows space for walkers and bikers. Access to metro stops is usually signed, though it is helpful to look at a map for the AVC before setting out to have an idea of possible on / off places. Maps: there are several on internet, please compare if this one is not to your liking. This has quite a lot of information, including ups and downs of the route and more info on distances (scroll down to end) https://pedalibre.org/moverse-con-bici-en-madrid/anillo-verde-ciclista/
Top favorite part: In the northwest, going counter-clockwise from metro Montecarmelo to just past Herrera Oria, then my own route to the University and Moncloa. The first part of this route follows the Camino /Road of St. James from Madrid to Sahagún, and has nice views of open country and out to the mountains in first part, then university at the end. Leaving Montecarmelo metro turn left and in a few blocks you will find the AVC as a perpendicular paved route. Turn left between rows of apartment buldings, and just stay on the route. About five minutes from Montecarmelo the AVC curves sharply left – branch route to the right goes to Colmenar Viejo. Shortly after that the AVC curves around a small pine grove with some metal structures that look like wide open flowers on stems – find a stick and play a tune on them. Stay on the route, watching for soccer field (on your right a bit after the golf course) and a small park. IMPORTANT NOTE: bus stop for the 82 (destination Moncloa) is on other side of park, several more 82 stops in next several blocks. Not long after the park the AVC crosses a big street (Cardenal Herrera Oria) and a few blocks after that the 82 bus turns left. DECISION TIME. From here the AVC goes straight ahead and eventually out to follow the M40 and enter the Casa de Campo. That version is long for walking and the part along the highway, while well separate from the cars, is not very pretty – it’s ok on a bike but not much fun on foot. If walking, my choice is always to turn left following the 82 bus route to the top of the hill with another 82 bus stop, which is really on top of the M30. Here the 82 turns left, for walking the prettiest is to continue straight ahead up a short flight of stairs with a street on your right, then curve left with the street and stay on the same street up a gentle hill then down a bit until it reaches a T intersection with Avenida Miraflores. (this is Puerta de Hierro neighborhood, a number of embassy residences here and even an embassy or two. Lots of very pretty houses, others pretentious though not very pretty). Turn right
on this new street and stay on the same street to reach end of the neighborhood, security guard post on the right. Keep going in the same direction, crossing multi-lane road heading for park on other side of the road (lower part of Dehesa de la Villa park). Keep going in same direction with park on your left to enter the University Complutense campus; again we find bus stops for the 82. Easiest now is just to continue straight ahead on the left side of the street, pass athletic fields (will be on your right), continue straight ahead through university buildings to reach a biggish open area with Ciudad Universitaria metro stop. To reach Moncloa from here, continue straight ahead until you reach a big roundabout with a many-lane road (A6 highway) going under a bridge. Turn left on a pedestrian walkway up a gentle hill with the big road lower down on your right. At the top of the hill you’ll see the Faro de Moncloa tower lookout and the Museo de America. Continue straight ahead on the walkway, cross a pedestrian bridge and you are in Moncloa. Bar-cafés and bathrooms. This part of the route is a little scarce in both, so best to have a snack and water with you and a potty break before leaving Montecarmelo area. Other places: maybe 30 minutes after Montecarmelo you come to a gas station on the left. Turn left on the street just after the gas station and go a few blocks – there is at least a McDonalds a few blocks away and maybe more. First roundabout after the gas station: turn left a few blocks for a Vips + Ginos, not much of a bar but in an emergency could work. Second big intersection after gas station (not really a roundabout), turn left and go several blocks to find some bars and La Coma metro station. Turn right and go up a hill to reach Pitis commuter train stop, there’s a bar-café next to the station. I think there is a new Mercadona supermarket on the right just before this intersection – many of those supermarkets have bathrooms near entrance. Last chance for real bar-café and potty break: at “DECISION TIME” where 82 turns left and walkers are recommended to do the same: bar-café on the right. Unauthorized but in emergency: friendly trees in Dehesa de la Villa park.
Second favorite part: through the Casa de Campo to Aluche. IMPORTANT NOTE SPRING 2021: the Casa de Campo was closed immediately after Filomena winter storm due to tree damage, still closed at the end of January so before choosing this route check to see if park is open. You can pick up the AVC at Puente de los Franceses (north end of Madrid Rio park), but that is a little confusing. My choice is usually to start at Principe Pio metro, go down the hill, cross Madrid Rio park and into the Casa de Campo at the main gate (white columns). Stay on the main paved road, walkways both sides, curving right and up a hill. At the top of the hill with lake on your left you’ll find the AVC signage, continue straight ahead on a paved road. Once on the route just follow through the park, mostly parallel to a paved road, past the zoo and up a hill to leave the park, crossing the A5 highway on a blue bridge. Stay on the route – last part is through Aluche neighborhood’s biggest park. ALTERNATIVE ROUTE IN THE CASA DE CAMPO. If you are a fairly good navigator and want a prettier route in the Casa de Campo: at the top of the hill with the lake on your left, instead of following the bike route follow the lake, at first in same direction then curving around to the left. There are several bar-cafés around the lake, when you get to the last one (El Lago) turn 90º to the right and go to the paved road, with a small roundabout: signage for metro stop Lago uphill on your left. Go across the roundabout diagonally, looking for a small stream with information panels next to it. This is the Meaques, main waterway in the park, and it will take you directly to the zoo where you can pick up the AVC again. There are nice paths all the way along the stream, keep it on your left and look left every time you cross a paved road. When you see the amusement park on the other side of the stream and parked cars be ready: at first paved road after the amusement park parking area turn left across the bridge then right, now walking with paved road on your left and Meaques hidden among trees on your right. Pass kid’s playgrounds (including a VERY cool rocket slide), reach the zoo and pick up the AVC for rest of the route. Bar-cafés and bathrooms: a few bar-cafés around the lake, then nothing until park in Aluche, which has several good places. Lots of friendly trees in the Casa de Campo, though.
Third favorite part: North and northeast, going clockwise from metro Montecarmelo OR commuter train stop Fuencarral to metro Canillejas. This route has less green, and a longish part within hearing of the M40, but also goes very near El Capricho park. From Montecarmelo, turn left when leaving the subway and right when you reach the AVC. You’ll go over the Colmenar highway on a blue bridge and soon after that reach an intersection with a strange brick column on the left. DECISION TIME: AVC paved and signed route straight ahead towards a perpendicular road at the bottom of a little hill, white-brick paved road turns right with orange signage column short distance away. EASIEST ROUTE: turn right and when reaching orange column continue more or less in same direction, heading for a row of evergreen (cypress) trees. At the cypress-tree street turn left to reach big street at stoplight and crosswalk (two bars). Cross the big street and continue downhill on a paved track, curving left to reach another paved track with brick wall on the right. (Fuencarral train station turning sharp right at this point). SHORTCUT ROUTE: at decision time, stay straight ahead to bottom of hill. Cross the big street, turn right and take first UNPAVED track going left downhill. Soon track becomes paved and reaches the paved track described above: turn left so brick wall is on your right. From Fuencarral commuter train station (careful! NOT Fuencarral metro!) Go out main door of station, from platform 2 (you will need to go under the tracks if coming from Madrid). Turn right leaving the station on a street and up a little hill. Reach intersection with a stop sign, turn right on a walkway with brick wall on your right. Soon pass a paved track coming in from the left (“easy route” described above) and not long after that pass another paved track on the left (“shortcut” described above): this track along the wall is gentle then steeper down down, finally curves to the right and under the tracks. After going under tunnel, just stay on the route, though watch signage carefully – this part of the route crosses several roundabouts or next to parking lots so signage might not be easy to spot (it has been improved but with so many crisscrosses needs more attention). Also, after crossing the A1 bridge, kilometer drop to zero. Be careful to stay on the AVC, as there is a branch bike route off the main route. At kilometer 9k do NOT take track marked for walkers, turning left under big bridge. Instead of that, stay on biking route, cross big street at stoplight and stay on biking route parallel to bridge until track meets a T intersection. Turn right: typical blue metal pedestrian bridge is visible from that crossroads. Go over the bridge, down the stairs and walk along the big highway, which will be on your right. Canillejas metro short distance ahead. Bar-cafés and bathrooms. There aren’t many, but more than my fave route, and they’re pretty obvious from the route, though in 2021 some are COVID-closed or closed on Sundays, since some eating spots are more for office workers than local residents or visitors. Two places that are fairly reliable: GALP gas station near kilometer marker 1.9km has a small store, cafeteria and bathroom. Bar-restaurante Miño is at kilometer marker 4.7m: AVC track curves right, bar is on right above the track. Several bar-cafés around Canillejas metro