Twenty years ago a city in the northwest corner of the Peninsula began to move in the opposite direction to the rest of the planet. Pontevedra, a Galician city of 82,000 inhabitants invaded then as all by cars, noise, fumes and double row, promoted a plan to pedestrianize and limit access on wheels to the historic center and the Ensanche, received tooth and nail by a good part of the residents and merchants. Today, with road traffic only allowed in a quarter of the town, the neighbors have gone from the protests to ask the City to expand the restrictions.
The Pontevedra have discovered that it is possible to escape from the jungle of asphalt. The 80,000 vehicles that took the city center daily in the late nineties have been reduced to 7,000 and 1.3 million square meters of streets have been returned to pedestrians. The government of Miguel Anxo Fernández Lores, the mayor of the Galego Nationalist Bloc (BNG) that launched the project in 1999 and who is still in charge, he argues that pedestrianisations just do not work and that they must be accompanied by a comprehensive plan to organize traffic throughout the city. "Here we prioritize only the necessary traffic: access to garages, loading and unloading, public transport and individual services of private vehicles", explains the councilor.
To get rid of the loop of cars that spin around waiting for the miracle of finding parking, in the center is not allowed to park on the surface even if paying (there is no ARO). The only thing that is reserved are free places for quick management where you can only stay for 15 minutes. In the accesses, the directions shepherd the traffic towards the circuits and prevent the vehicles that enter by the north from crossing the center to leave by the south. And to temper the desire to run of the drivers, all of Pontevedra is zone 30, the traffic lights are replaced by roundabouts, the pedestrian crossings are elevated and the narrower lanes.
"We are the only city in the world where pedestrians cross the zebra crossings without looking because vehicles always stop, "says Verísimo Pazos, vice president of the Veciñais Castelao Federation of Associations. The inhabitants of Pontevedra have realized that in a city like theirs the shortest distance is usually the one that is done walking. They use a map called Metrominuto that, with a format similar to the one used by certain cities for the metro, informs about the time it takes to walk from one point to another. According to data from the City Council, the legs are the means of transport chosen by 90% of the neighbors to make the purchase and 80% of the children to go to class.
From the local government stress that with all these measures traffic has gained in fluidity and the urban center, unlike in other cities, grows in population and economic activity. Miguel Lago is a merchant and neighbor of the center and was one of those who received with skepticism the restrictions on traffic 20 years ago. Resides in the street Benito Corbal, which is "like the Gran Vía in Madrid", and today is considered a "privileged". "Customers go to establishments [comerciales] walking, they only drive to the McAuto ", affirms the also president of the organization that groups the merchants of the monumental zone. "A trade is valued by the number of people who walk by in front of the business. For us, electronic commerce is a problem, not pedestrianization. "
The City Council calculates that CO emissionstwo 67% have been reduced in Pontevedra, which is equivalent to 500 kilos per inhabitant per year. According to the report The quality of the air in the Spanish State during 2016 of Ecologists in Action, the city maintains the annual averages of all the parameters (PM10, PM2.5, nitrogen dioxide, tropospheric ozone and sulfur dioxide) below the maximums set by the World Health Organization (WHO). And the neighbors lead a healthier life. "We favor people walking at least between 7,000 and 10,000 steps as recommended by WHO," presumes the mayor, a doctor by profession.