ENVIRONMENT

Madrid mayor pledges to make iconic Gran Vía a pedestrian zone

Manuela Carmena’s Ahora Madrid party has been imposing traffic restrictions as a prelude to a wider ban

Madrid Mayor Manuela Carmena has confirmed that one of the main priorities of her administration will be to pedestrianize one of the capital’s main shopping streets, the Gran Vía. Speaking on Cadena SER radio station, Carmena said that City Hall was “carefully and calmly” analyzing the impact of traffic restrictions imposed over the last month on the thoroughfare and some adjoining streets. The mayor said that her plans would not affect public transportation.

The Gran Vía during one of the days traffic was restricted.
The Gran Vía during one of the days traffic was restricted.EFE

Carmena mentioned the example of the Basque city of Bilbao, whose own Gran Vía “is deliciously pedestrianized and allows access to public transportation.”

There have been a series of restrictions on traffic in downtown Madrid throughout December, with the latest running from December 23 to January 8.

Madrid City Hall has introduced a range of traffic restrictions in recent months

Initially, the restrictions on private car use caused bottlenecks at key junctions into the city center, particularly along the main Castellana boulevard.

On December 29, motorists in the Spanish capital were hit with unprecedented measures to reduce traffic, with only vehicles whose license plate ended with an odd number permitted to enter within the M-30 beltway.

The last week of December also saw a 70 km/h speed limit imposed on the M-30 beltway in a bid to reduce emissions. Radar controls have been adjusted accordingly, and police and traffic officers were posted on bridges using mobile radars as a further measure.

There have also been bans on parking in metered public spots in the downtown area during the final months of the year.

Carmena took office in 2015 at the head of the Ahora Madrid coalition, which was backed by anti-austerity party Podemos. She has made clear that under her tenure City Hall intends to reduce the use of cars in the capital, partly to reduce congestion, as well as in response to alarmingly high air pollution levels.

Air pollution caused an estimated 29,980 premature deaths in Spain in 2013, according to the Air quality in Europe – 2016 report released by the European Environment Agency (EEA).

Asked whether she would run for a second term in 2019, the 72-year old said: “This will be a single legislature. As I said from the beginning, the idea is that politics is not a career.”

English version by Nick Lyne.

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