CORONAVIRUS

Madrid City Hall planning on pedestrianizing streets on weekends to avoid crowds from forming

Parks in the capital have still not been reopened despite the loosening of coronavirus confinement measures, making it difficult for people to maintain social distancing while taking exercise

An empty Paseo del Prado during Spain's lockdown.
An empty Paseo del Prado during Spain's lockdown.KIKE PARA / EL PAÍS

Madrid Mayor José Luis Martínez-Almeida announced on Monday that some of the city’s streets would be pedestrianized in order to avoid crowds forming during the hours that Spaniards are permitted outside to take exercise during the coronavirus lockdown.

Mayor Almeida said that he wanted to pedestrianize roads in all of Madrid’s districts

Almeida said on Tuesday that the measures would be provisional, and would only be in place on weekends. Madrid’s Paseo del Prado and Arturo Soria street are among some of the likely thoroughfares that will be chosen for the plan.

Despite the recent relaxation of Spain’s confinement measures, which are among the strictest in the world, the Spanish capital has not reopened its parks, meaning that people coming out onto the street for walks or to take exercise have found themselves surrounded by other citizens, making social distancing difficult.

During an interview with the Cope radio network, Almeida said that he wanted to pedestrianize roads in all of Madrid’s districts, and as such has requested information from local councilors about where to do this.

The mayor added that he hoped that the spaces would be defined by City Hall by Thursday of this week.

Almeida added that the local council is considering allowing bars and restaurants who do not currently have terraces with tables to use the streets for this purpose

In another interview with El Economista, Almeida added that the local council is considering allowing bars and restaurants who do not currently have sidewalk terraces with tables to use the streets for this purpose, allowing them to maintain the same capacity as they had before the coronavirus crisis took hold. This move would have to wait until Phase 2 of the government’s deescalation plan, given that the capacity of establishments will have to be limited to 50% in the earlier phase.

Despite criticism, the mayor is insisting that parks should remain shut in Madrid until at least May 9 “to be prudent,” given that “you go to parks to stay a while, not to walk through.” He added that he knew “that this was controversial, but we are being guided by prudence.” Madrid City Hall was taking decisions, he added, “according to two factors: avoiding mobility as well as crowds.”

The mayor called for citizens to act responsibly, and to remember that sports activities must be practiced individually under the current regulations. He said that “people [have been seen] dressed to do sport without actually doing sport. This is not an excuse to get out onto the street,” he added.

Walks and other physical exercise are currently permitted from 6am to 10am and from 8pm to 11pm for those aged 14 and over. If people opt for a walk, they can do so with one other person with whom they live, but they can go no further than a one kilometer radius of their residence. This restriction does not apply to those practicing sport, such as running or cycling, who must practice these activities alone and stay within their municipality.

English version by Simon Hunter.

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