Central Madrid is already in force: a historic change for the capital of Spain

The capital debuts this Friday Central Madrid , a historic change that puts Madrid at the forefront of cities that fight against pollution. The star measure of Manuela Carmena , which starts in the information phase, closes to traffic an area of ​​472 hectares in the center where only residents and public transport can circulate; non-residents can access as long as they have an environmental label and go to a parking lotof public use. The initiative, which was already proposed by the previous mayors of the PP (Gallardón and Botella), is done by public health - promoted by the European Commission - and expects to reduce by 40% the emission of pollutants in the area. Many European cities have taken measures against the fumes of cars, but only four have gone further than Madrid and have imposed a toll to enter the center: London, Milan, Stockholm and Gothenburg .
If in the fifties and sixties all the cities of Europe were transformed to devote most of their public space to cars (with avenues and parking), from the late eighties began an opposite but unstoppable movement to recover the cities for pedestrians, taking space away from the private vehicle.Madrid has not been left out. One of the first controversies was the closure of the transit of the Retiro Park , promoted by the PSOE and fiercely opposed by AP (former PP).
However, the following initiatives were taken by a mayor of the PP, Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón : in addition to pedestrianizing numerous streets in the center, as of 2004, he created the first priority residential areas (APR), areas limited to the traffic of residents in the neighborhoods of Courts, Letters and Ambassadors, whose access is controlled by cameras and which can be accessed if you go to a public car park. In short, the embryo of Central Madrid. In fact, Gallardón himself proposed in 2006 to close to traffic an area very similar to the one that is being started up today, but did not manage to carry it out. His successor, Ana Botella (PP), also tried in 2014, but the critics of the merchants made him keep the plan in a drawer. With this background, it is curious to observe the fierce opposition of the PP to the municipal plan, which have recurred in several instances.
Source: Madrid City Council. 
In any case, Carmena's initiative responds to a request from the European Commission to improve poor air quality -caused by exhaust pipes- in Madrid and Barcelona. To avoid a multi-million dollar fine, the Madrid City Council launched the Air Quality Plan A, which in addition to this traffic closure includes measures such as the Anti-Pollution Protocol, which limits the circulation of the oldest vehicles in the entire city in episodes. of high contamination. The Madrid City Council estimates that the 230,000 car trips made to the center each day will be reduced by about 76,000 (ie 33%) with Madrid Centralbeing the oldest cars (those without environmental label) there will be 40% less emissions -mainly nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and its derivatives-, the figure required by the Commission.

Historic day

"This is a very important moment for the city," said Inés Sabanés, councilor for the Environment and Mobility Area , which she considers Friday as a "historic day." The measure, according to the councilor, "puts the health of citizens at the center of public policy and the performance of the municipal government."
The furious criticisms (merchants, citizens, transporters) are not exclusive to Madrid: every time a similar initiative is launched there is usually a reaction to change, which continues until the benefits of the new situation are appreciated. The mayor of London was also the target of fierce opposition when 15 years ago he introduced a congestion charge (pay to enter) in the central area of ​​the city: what was initially critical has turned into support. It is a more radical measure than Central Madrid, since in the Spanish capital you can enter for free provided you have an environmental label and park in a public parking lot, while in London all vehicles that enter during working hours must pay 12 euros (residents get a 90% discount).
The London plan has reduced traffic by a third and has become an example for other cities that have adopted it afterwards: Milan (Italy), Stockholm and Gothenburg (Sweden) and Singapore; Even New York is studying implanting it. Oslo, for its part, has proposed eliminating the emission of harmful gases by 2025 and for this will prohibit the movement of vehicles that move with diesel and gasoline.
Other cities are still debating how to change their mobility: Rome has several Limited Traffic Areas and is studying how to expand them, while Berlin has an environmental area of ​​88 square kilometers where only cars with green badge can be driven, which receive vehicles whose standard of emission corresponds to Euro 4 or higher (equivalent to an environmental label C). In Paris, fast roads have been closed to convert them into pedestrian zones, a process denounced in the courts, as has happened in Madrid. The judges agreed with the mayor, Anne Hidalgo. The councilor has already advanced that in the next legislature wants to pedestrianize the most central districts to alleviate the negative impact of vehicles on air quality and on monuments.