Pontevedra was a metropolis individuals had been leaving as a result of the automotive was choking the life out of its medieval centre.
Decided to save lots of town from fumes, congestion and deaths from visitors accidents, the mayor of this metropolis in northwestern Spain introduced in a radical plan handy it again to pedestrians.
Inside a month of coming to energy in 1999, Miguel Anxo Fernandez Lores pedestrianised all 300,000 sq. metres of town centre.
“Earlier than you might not hear anybody communicate, now you’ll be able to,” Lores informed Euronews.
“We had between 80,000 and 150,000 automobiles coming in every single day to a metropolis of 80,000 individuals, about triple the density of Madrid or London. It was unimaginable to drive round or stroll. There have been everlasting jams. Individuals wished to go away as a result of it was so blocked up.”
Pontevedra determined to chop the variety of automobiles which may enter so solely “important autos” had been allowed into the centre.
Automobiles had been not allowed to cross town to go elsewhere. Road parking ended as a result of a research confirmed that the majority congestion was attributable to individuals trying to find a parking place.
All floor automotive parks had been closed within the metropolis centre and underground ones had been opened exterior town centre with 1,686 free locations. Visitors lights had been changed by roundabouts and a car-free zone was prolonged. The pace restrict was lower to 30kph and even 10kph in inner-city zones.
Pontevedra received awards from the United Nations and the European Union for the way in which it has remodeled town.
“There haven’t been any deadly accidents for 11 years. Air pollution has been decreased to half a tonne per particular person per yr. And the standard of life has gone up tremendously,” Lores stated.
Comparable schemes have been adopted in Oviedo, San Sebastian and Logroño.
The Spanish authorities hopes to repeat the success of Pontevedra elsewhere by introducing low emission zones in 147 cities by subsequent yr to limit air pollution, congestion and noise.
An Surroundings ministry spokesman stated: “We’ve got handed a legislation which compels metropolis councils to create low emission zones in metropolis centres however how that is achieved is as much as particular person authorities.”
Ecologists in Motion, a conservation group, applauded this measure, which has obtained widespread public help in Spain, however stated they had been disillusioned by the sluggish response by metropolis councils.
Below Spain’s 2021 Local weather Change Legislation, cities with greater than 50,000 inhabitants, other than Madrid and Barcelona, should draw up plans for these zones. Spain’s two largest cities have already introduced in schemes to limit gas-guzzling automobiles.
Automobiles can be categorized in response to how a lot they contaminate the environment. These categorized as ECO or 0 are electrical or hybrid automobiles. Drivers can be allowed to park the place they need in low-emission zones.
Automobiles categorized as C embody all these which aren’t hybrid, micro gas, electrical and within the case of petrol automobiles had been registered earlier than 2006 or with diesel earlier than 2015. This makes up the biggest group of autos in Spain.
Others classed as B are the oldest petrol automobiles registered earlier than 2001 which can incur the heaviest fines to enter low emission zones or be banned.
Pamplona, the northern Spanish metropolis greatest recognized for its world-famous bull-running competition, is planning to convey a low emission zone in its narrow-cobbled streets by the top of 2023.
Any polluting automobiles with out an acceptable badge will be fined as much as €200 however there isn’t a cost to enter the zone.
The automotive continues to be king in most Spanish cities, declare conservationists, however most Spaniards need this rule to finish.
A ballot for eldiario.es, a left-leaning information web site, printed on 20 September discovered that 70% of Spaniards supported limiting vitality use, proscribing using automobiles in cities and rising taxes for actions which trigger probably the most contamination.
One other survey for the Clear Cities Marketing campaign, which is allied to Ecologists in Motion, printed on 22 September discovered that 62% of residents in Barcelona, Paris, London, Brussels and Warsaw supported banning automobiles from cities on some days of the week to cut back dependence on oil.
If the desire to take away automobiles from cities is there, why are politicians dragging their heels?
“We help the Spanish authorities’s measure to usher in low emission zones in cities. Nonetheless, we’re disillusioned by the sluggish response by metropolis councils,” Carmen Duce, of Ecologists in Motion, informed Euronews.
“In some circumstances, there may be additionally a small however highly effective foyer which has managed to get measures to limit using automobiles overturned. Elsewhere, some politicians could not wish to herald radical measures earlier than native elections subsequent Could.”
Nonetheless, the tide could also be turning because the bicycle is on the rise.
In Barcelona, a crocodile of small bikes snakes its approach precariously via the frenzy hour visitors at some point per week, escorted by a Praetorian guard of oldsters.
That is the bicibus – the bicycle bus – of tiny kids making their approach to faculty as automobiles and lorries cease to allow them to go by.
A police escort makes certain they attain faculty with none mishaps.
Bicibus was the brainchild of oldsters in a single a part of town who believed their kids ought to have the prospect to cycle to highschool safely with out being intimidated by rush hour visitors. After one began a yr in the past, 11 extra have sprung up throughout town and the marketing campaign has gone worldwide.
Dad and mom in Glasgow, New York and San Francisco have been in contact with the Spanish campaigners to create their very own variations of the bicycle taxi.
“There was a increase in these bicibus schemes and we have now had curiosity from around the globe,” Rosa Suriñach, a bicibus organiser, informed Euronews.
“The council is supportive however there has solely been modifications domestically. There isn’t any one integral scheme for Barcelona to make town extra cycle pleasant.”
A spokesman for Barcelona metropolis council stated: “The authority helps the bicibus initiative and using bicycles basically via using bike lanes within the metropolis.”