Pontevedra was a metropolis folks have been leaving as a result of the automotive was choking the life out of its medieval centre.
Decided to save lots of the town from fumes, congestion and deaths from site visitors accidents, the mayor of this metropolis in northwestern Spain introduced in a radical plan at hand it again to pedestrians.
Inside a month of coming to energy in 1999, Miguel Anxo Fernandez Lores pedestrianised all 300,000 sq. metres of the town centre.
“Earlier than you can not hear anybody communicate, now you’ll be able to,” Lores advised Euronews.
“We had between 80,000 and 150,000 vehicles coming in daily to a metropolis of 80,000 folks, about triple the density of Madrid or London. It was inconceivable to drive round or stroll. There have been everlasting jams. Individuals needed to go away as a result of it was so blocked up.”
Pontevedra determined to chop the variety of vehicles which may enter so solely “important automobiles” have been allowed into the centre.
Vehicles have been not allowed to cross the town to go elsewhere. Avenue parking ended as a result of a examine confirmed that the majority congestion was brought on by folks trying to find a parking place.
All floor automotive parks have been closed within the metropolis centre and underground ones have been opened exterior the town centre with 1,686 free locations. Visitors lights have 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 best way it has remodeled the town.
“There haven’t been any deadly accidents for 11 years. Air pollution has been lowered to half a tonne per particular person per 12 months. And the standard of life has gone up tremendously,” Lores mentioned.
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 12 months to limit air pollution, congestion and noise.
An Setting ministry spokesman mentioned: “Now we have handed a legislation which compels metropolis councils to create low emission zones in metropolis centres however how that is accomplished is as much as particular person authorities.”
Ecologists in Motion, a conservation group, applauded this measure, which has acquired widespread public assist in Spain, however mentioned they have been dissatisfied by the gradual response by metropolis councils.
Beneath Spain’s 2021 Local weather Change Regulation, 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 vehicles.
Vehicles can be categorized in keeping with how a lot they contaminate the ambiance. These categorized as ECO or 0 are electrical or hybrid vehicles. Drivers can be allowed to park the place they need in low-emission zones.
Vehicles categorized as C embody all these which aren’t hybrid, micro gas, electrical and within the case of petrol vehicles have been registered earlier than 2006 or with diesel earlier than 2015. This makes up the most important group of automobiles in Spain.
Others classed as B are the oldest petrol vehicles 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 pageant, is planning to carry a low emission zone in its narrow-cobbled streets by the top of 2023.
Any polluting vehicles with out an acceptable badge might 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 the usage of vehicles 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 vehicles from cities on some days of the week to cut back dependence on oil.
If the desire to take away vehicles from cities is there, why are politicians dragging their heels?
“We assist the Spanish authorities’s measure to usher in low emission zones in cities. Nonetheless, we’re dissatisfied by the gradual response by metropolis councils,” Carmen Duce, of Ecologists in Motion, advised Euronews.
“In some instances, there may be additionally a small however highly effective foyer which has managed to get measures to limit the usage of vehicles overturned. Elsewhere, some politicians might not wish to herald radical measures earlier than native elections subsequent Might.”
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 site visitors at some point per week, escorted by a Praetorian guard of oldsters.
That is the bicibus – the bicycle bus – of tiny youngsters making their approach to college as vehicles and lorries cease to allow them to go by.
A police escort makes positive they attain college with none mishaps.
Bicibus was the brainchild of oldsters in a single a part of the town who believed their youngsters ought to have the prospect to cycle to highschool safely with out being intimidated by rush hour site visitors. After one began a 12 months in the past, 11 extra have sprung up throughout the town and the marketing campaign has gone worldwide.
Mother and father 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 growth in these bicibus schemes and we have now had curiosity from around the globe,” Rosa Suriñach, a bicibus organiser, advised Euronews.
“The council is supportive however there has solely been modifications regionally. There isn’t any one integral scheme for Barcelona to make the town extra cycle pleasant.”
A spokesman for Barcelona metropolis council mentioned: “The authority helps the bicibus initiative and the usage of bicycles normally via the usage of bike lanes within the metropolis.”