Madrid municipal police officers have begun enforcing controversial new regulations for pedestrians in a popular downtown shopping district.
Mayor Manuela Carmena, of the leftist Ahora Madrid coalition, has made two major pedestrian thoroughfares – Preciados street and del Carmen street – into one-way routes over the Christmas holidays.
I shouldn’t have to go all the way around the block because a random politician wants me to
Rosa María del Rey, Madrid resident
The measures will be in place until January 7 on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays during peak times for human traffic in the popular commercial area. The Sol Metro stop is also affected, with some doors to be used exclusively for exiting the high-volume transit hub.
City officials say that the measure will enhance security and improve mobility in the area. But the initiative has drawn widespread criticism and become an endless source of humor on social media, where comparisons have been drawn to cattle trails and even to the North Korean regime.
“Baaaa! We look like sheep. They won’t even let us walk wherever we like on the street,” complained one man on Preciados street, walking ahead of three police officers stationed there to enforce the new regulations.
At times when the one-way policy is in force, Preciados street will only be accessible from Puerta del Sol, while Del Carmen street may only be entered from Plaza de Callao.
Yellow-and-blue metal fences are being used to prevent people from accessing these streets from the wrong end, and dozens of police officers have been ensuring that pedestrians observe the rules.
In the evening of December 1, the flow of people in Callao was such that reinforcements were called in to enforce the one-way policy. One individual who managed to squeeze through the cordon was hailed by an officer: “Excuse me, you can’t come in this way. It’s forbidden. You have to use the side streets.”
Red and green signs reading “ENTRADA-ACCES [sic] DOOR” and “SALIDA-EXIT” have also been placed over Preciados and del Carmen street.
On Tuesday, Chief Inspector Teodoro Pérez of the Madrid Municipal Police said that the one-way policy is the result of many years of experience in the capital.
“Almost every year, we’ve had to cut off access to Sol from Preciados. The main thing is prevention and information, before anything happens. This year, we’ve been proactive,” he said.
“Let’s keep in mind that a lot of families with small children come downtown at this time of the year, and measures are required,” added Pérez.
But several passersby seemed to have a different opinion.
“[Mayor] Carmena will say that this thing has worked. By force, that is. If you try to go in the wrong way, you get slapped with a fine,” complained a woman who was barred from heading toward Sol from the corner of Preciados and Tetuán.
“This is all very wrong; I shouldn’t have to go all the way around the block because a random politician wants me to,” said Rosa María del Rey, a “born-and-bred” resident of Madrid.
Her sister María Jesús agreed: “This year they’ve come up with a real dumb-ass idea.”
English version by Susana Urra.