Madrid bans use of parking meters in center due to high pollution levels

Speed restrictions on access roads put in place yesterday maintained Prohibition sees low traffic on many streets, where meters were turned off at 6am

A Madrid parking meter with a warning sign that it is out of use.
A Madrid parking meter with a warning sign that it is out of use.Jaime Villanueva

The city of Madrid introduced unprecedented traffic restrictions on Friday as a result of heavy pollution in the capital.

A day after the speed limit was brought down to 70km/h on the M-30 ring road and all access roads into the city, drivers awoke to a ban on downtown parking for all non-residents.

“Gran Vía at 9am. There is traffic, but less than on a normal Friday”

On Friday morning, the prohibition had already resulted in unusually low traffic on many Madrid streets, where parking meters were turned off at 6am.

“This has to be seen to be believed. López Pozas street, Plaza Castilla.”

The measures are a result of Mayor Manuela Carmena’s decision to activate a Level 2 protocol after 11 pollution measurement stations in the city revealed nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels above the limit of 200 micrograms per square meter. Nitrogen oxides can cause respiratory irritation and trigger asthma attacks.

“Parking spaces for non-residents in Fernando VI. The cars are going right by today”

While city officials said it is still too early to assess whether the restrictions have brought down the number of vehicles in the city, the downtown area was experiencing fewer traffic jams.

“Taxi drivers report more demand this morning”

Taxi drivers also reported a spike in demand as people left their cars at home, and the public bus network increased the frequency on 55 routes.

But many other Madrileños seemed confused as to whether the ban was truly in effect or not. Last night, Carmena claimed that it was being lifted, only to have the environment department contradict her soon later.

Violators of the downtown parking ban will face €90 fines, said employees of SER, the company that runs the parking meters. Only residents, commercial vehicles, school buses, taxis, vehicles for people with reduced mobility and zero-emission cars are allowed to park in the blue and green areas.

English version by Susana Urra.

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