Spain’s capital makes a big push for better air quality.
While Spain’s national politics lurch through crisis, the country’s capital is actually getting down to business to improve its poor air quality, making the city altogether more healthy and livable. It’s doing so by introducing a host of air-cleaning measures under a 30-point plan entitled Plan A—“because there is no plan B,” Mayor Manuela Carmena says.
The first major change actually started last month, albeit more with a whimper than a bang. Just as it did last year, Madrid closed its main drag—the broad, often car-filled avenue Gran Vía—to cars at the beginning of December. By now, this is a well embedded tool for making holiday shopping more pleasant—but this time, it will never quite end. Cars will return on January 7, but the streets won’t be the same for long. Later in the month, Madrid plans to start doubling the street’s sidewalks, taking space from car lanes to give pedestrians an extra 58,000 square feet of space, plus a segregated bike lane down its busiest stretch.
Madrid is clearly hoping that at least some of these drivers will switch to cycling. The city is doubling its number of bikeshare bikes and extending docking stations for the first time beyond the M30 beltway. The beltway itself, meanwhile, will be facing measures to reduce its emissions. Currently, the city introduces a 70 kilometer per hour (43 mph) speed limit during pollution peaks, one of several measures it takes to help clear the dirty air that often sits like a pall over the city during the colder months. By the end of the year, this 70 kph speed limit will be made permanent, significantly reducing the speed—and thus the emissions—of traffic circulating around the city’s edge.