How does a City in which Cars are Forbidden look like? Pontevedra

How does a City in which Cars are Forbidden look like? Pontevedra

It was necessary to improve the quality of life, reduce traffic, and create a human city,” says Miguel Anxo Fernandez Lores.

Pontevedra is located in the northwest of the Iberian Peninsula at the mouth of the river Lérez. This tourist destination is surrounded by hills and has a population of 82,946. It is not only the capital of its county (Comarca) and the province of Pontevedra but it also the capital of its own municipality, which is generally regarded as an extension of the actual city. This Spanish city has an extremely rich heritage which earned it the titles of ‘The Good City’ and ‘The City of Lérez’. Despite all of that, the most common reason for its popularity is that Pontevedra became a car-free city in 1999 after the authorities pedestrianized the medieval center.

The city of Pontevedra was paralyzed by traffic in the ending years of the 1990s. According to an estimate, more than 27,000 cars passed by the Spain Plaza on a daily basis and it was becoming impossible for the pedestrians to travel. Following these terrible circumstances, Miguel Anxo Fernandez Lores contested the local elections with the motto of making the city more accessible to all the residents of Pontevedra, particularly to the most vulnerable people like senior citizens, children, and handicapped. He described the situation of that time in the following words:

The historical center was dead. There were a lot of drugs, it was full of cars – it was a marginal zone. It was a city in decline, polluted, and there were a lot of traffic accidents. It was stagnant. Most people who had a chance to leave did so. At first, we thought of improving traffic conditions but couldn’t come up with a workable plan. Instead, we decided to take back the public space for the residents and to do this we decided to get rid of cars.

Lores was adamant that all the citizens have equal rights and public space should not be aggressive in order to ensure that the city remains livable. Similarly, he believed that all of us are equal when all of us are walking. He initiated several pedestrian-friendly projects which significantly improved the quality of life in this historic city. In addition to that, he banned transit in the downtown and lowered speed limits to 20-30 km/h. The concepts of underground parking and deterrent lots were promoted to keep the streets clear from traffic. Not only did he announce these laws, but he also made sure that they were enforced. Daniel Macenelle Diaz, a local Police Chief, mentioned that they used personal digital assistants to ensure that no one gets away with the infringement. Consequently, they have a collection rate of 96%.

Lores displayed the amazing political courage to improve the quality of life in Pontevedra. He had to build the entire public space from scratch which was in accordance with the plan. A lot of playgrounds and green spaces were raised. Sidewalks were replaced with streets as there were no obstacles for those moving on feet. The pedestrian space was doubled even on roads which were open for traffic. Lores mentioned that the idea was that two people with open umbrellas should be able to pass by each other without a collision or a nudge. Talking about that, he said,

I made a deal with residents. I told them that if they returned to live downtown they would find all the business and services they needed close by. Also, I do not authorize the installation of any large buildings in the periphery. To succeed in improving the quality of life in cities, it is enough to have the will and political courage.

It was not an easy journey at all as the administration faced a lot of hurdles in their way. The reclamation process began from the historic center of Pontevedra. A lot of serious issues were related to this idea but the administration of Lores stuck to their task. Cesar Mosqueira Lourenzo, a public officer who was associated with this project, referred to the difficulties by saying,

If we reclaim a public space and pedestrians do not take to it immediately, automobile pressure comes back.

All their efforts proved extremely beneficial in the long run as the pollution of the city decreased by 61% by the year 2013. Similarly, a drop of 90% was observed in the traffic count of the downtown while the traffic of the central parts of Pontevedra reduced by 69%. The popularity of this idea is clearly evident by the facts that nearly 70% people of the city travel on foot and a massive decrement in the number of accidents is being observed.

Computer Scientist by qualification who loves to read, write, eat, and travel

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