Congratulations on receiving Spanish residency! You now have twelve months to obtain a Spanish walking license. This involves a theory test and a practice test, and your license will be recognized in many European Union countries with similar requirements.
While you may think there is nothing special to walking, Spanish laws and customs are distinctive. Special “andaescuelas” will provide the needed instruction (for a fee) and will take you out for practice walks (for an additional fee per session), during which you must wear a reflective green “L” (included in the fee) on your shoulder to alert other walkers.
Spanish citizens normally receive this instruction as part of their “bachillerato” education during ages 17 and 18. The 25% school dropout rate after age 16 explains a lot about what you see on the sidewalks of Spain.
Before you can go on practice walks, you must pass an official theory test (for a fee), which involves 30 questions. You must get 27 questions correct. The test is conducted at special regional centers on computers, and your andaescuela will let you practice (free of charge) on special computers at its school. If you fail your test, you can try again (for another fee). Here is a sample of the 15,500 possible questions (these are actually driving test questions):
1. How should you cross a traffic circle?
A. By the shortest means possible, even if it means crossing the road.
B. Walking in the direction to face oncoming traffic.
C. Walking around the traffic circle on the sidewalk or, if there is no sidewalk, on the shoulder. Correct.
2. A sign with a black silhouette of a person walking on a white background surrounded by a red circle means:
A. The roadway is for pedestrian use only. False. That would be a round blue sign with a white silhouette of a pedestrian.
B. You are approaching an area that is frequented by pedestrians. False. That would be a sign with a black silhouette of a pedestrian on a white background surrounded by a red triangle.
C. Pedestrians are prohibited from entering. Correct.
3. When walking at night outside of populated areas, a pedestrian:
A. Must walk on the left shoulder.
B. May walk on either shoulder, but must wear a reflective element such as a vest visible from 150 meters.
C. Must walk on the left shoulder and must wear a reflective element such as a vest visible from 150 meters. Correct.
Once you have passed the theory test, you have permission to practice supervised by a qualified instructor on public sidewalks (don’t forget the fee). Your instructor will give you guidance on how to pass the practice test, which is stringent.
The test will take place at a special regional center (for a fee), probably the same one where you took the theory test. An indoor course will involve about 20 minutes of walking. You may wear any shoes, although comfortable footwear is advisable. If you have special needs, such as a cane, wheelchair, personal caregiver, or seeing-eye dog, these will be accommodated. Tests are available in a variety of languages, but all the road signs you encounter will be in Spanish.
Among the many things to remember, here are some common mistakes:
• On an escalator, remember to stand to the right and walk on the left. Your examiner will tell you if you are “in a hurry” or “on a Sunday stroll.”
• When you approach a stairway, turn to face the stairway directly, not at an angle. Be sure to place your entire foot firmly on the riser. Do not walk on tiptoes or let your heel hang over the edge. Falling down stairs, even just two or three steps, is an automatic failure of the exam.
• In construction zones, obey all signs and follow all detours in the sidewalk. Construction workers assigned to direct automotive and pedestrian traffic must be obeyed as if they were police officers, with corresponding penalties for failing to follow instructions.
• Remember that you may cross anywhere on “residential streets,” which are marked by a blue rectangular sign that shows a pedestrian, a child playing with a ball, a house, a curb, and a car. You also have priority in “Zona a 30,” which are zones where automobile traffic is limited to 30 kilometers per hour and which are marked by a white rectangular sign with the word “ZONA” in black and a black number “30” surrounded by a red circle. At zebra-striped crosswalks without stop lights, pedestrians have the right of way over oncoming automotive traffic. Your examiner will expect you to know when you may cross a street and will expect you to cross with resolution if you have the right to do so. Excessive hesitation will cause you to fail the exam.
• You are no longer required to walk to the right on sidewalks as if you were a car on a road, but it’s a nice touch.
As you can see, there’s a lot to know. Don’t lose heart if you fail to pass the first time because this is common. You may take the test as many times as necessary (for a fee each time). When you pass, you will receive a temporary walking license immediately and your official license will arrive by mail within four weeks (included in the fee, although any subsequent changes to the license, such as a change of residency, involves another fee).
Remember, walking is excellent exercise and Spain is a beautiful country, so once you have your license, put it (and all the money it cost) to good use. Happy walking!
— Sue Burke
Also posted at my professional webpage: http://www.sue.burke.name
And check out this music, "I'm Walking," by Fats Domino