Carfree bridges, bike lanes, and public spaces in Bilbao

Someone riding one of Bilbao’s bike share bikes on a grade-separated “bizikletak” (cycle-track).
(Photos: Taylor Griggs/BikePortland)

— This post is part of BikePortland Staff Writer Taylor Griggs’ trip through Europe. See previous dispatches here.

Now that you have some background on Bilbao, Spain and its history of urban renewal via the Guggenheim Foundation, I want to share a bit more about this city. Like I said in the last story, Bilbao’s revitalization came with a hefty investment in public and active transportation and carfree public space across the city, which is evident to anyone walking around it today.

Here’s what I’ve stumbled upon in Bilbao so far.

Carfree bridges

The Zuziburi pedestrian bridge had its grand opening in Bilbao around the same time the Guggenheim Museum was completed, adding another architecturally distinctive element to the small city’s skyline. Like the museum, the bridge came with some controversy when it first opened. In this case, it was because it had a glass deck that caused people to slip and slide whenever it rained. But now it has a non-slip surface, making it much safer, if a bit less aesthetically appealing than its designer had in mind.

There’s also the wood-lined Pedro Arrupe Footbridge not far from the Zuziburi serving as another way for people walking and biking to get across the Nervión river to the other side of town.

Getting around

Bilbao is huge on walking — about 62% of all trips are made on foot. But there’s a growing population of cyclists here, too. The city has a bike share program, Bilbaobizi, but it’s only available to residents and getting access requires an in-person appointment. There’s also an impressive network of bike lanes, often grade-separated from car traffic and sometimes even accompanied by Dutch-style bicycle roundabouts at intersections.

The city’s public transit network includes buses, a metro system and trams — including an inclined tram for getting up the city’s mountainous areas. (Can you imagine an incline up Portland’s hilly westside?)

Public play places (for all ages)

I pointed out my fondness for the carfree plazas, parks and playgrounds I saw in Amsterdam and Copenhagen, and the trend continues here in Bilbao. The importance of these public spaces is one of the key things I’ve learned on this trip. They’re so crucial to a city’s livability for residents and are tourist crowd-pleasers, too.

Overall, I have been very impressed by this city. Tomorrow I’m off to Barcelona, in part to ride with the bicíbus, and then I’ll be back in Portland next week! Thanks for following along, it’s been fun to be able to share this with you.

Taylor Griggs

Taylor Griggs

Taylor was BikePortland's staff writer from 2021 to 2023. She currently writes for the Portland Mercury. Contact her at

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1 year ago

So happy for you. Loved the dispatches and from your posts, Bilbao stood out as the bike-friendliest!
Enjoy the rest of your time in Europe!

Lisa Caballero (Assistant Editor)
Reply to  Oliver

I second that, it has been really fun to follow along on your travels.

BTW, Portland Heights used to have a cable car, the ROW still exists, and I think a Cable St. It preceded the trolley.

(My private tag line when I first got involved in transportation was, “reconnecting Portland Heights to Portland.” 405 cut off the southern quadrant of the city from downtown, and left the area with one of the worst surface street messes in the city.)

Lenny Anderson
Lenny Anderson
1 year ago

Yes, I-405, part of the R. Moses inspired freeway loop, cut off inner SW from Portland’s core. It, along with the Sunset Freeway tunnel, obliterated the PSU “student ghetto” in Goose Hollow, with only fragments remaining. Urban freeways are among the most destructive and poisonous infrastructure imaginable.

1 year ago

I love reading your stories! Thank you, Taylor.

Pablo R
Pablo R
1 year ago

Must be nice to be able to ride in a functioning city. Maybe I should move to Bilbao.