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Smog-hit Madrid to wage war on cars

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Smog-hit Madrid to wage war on cars
Buses are set to get greater priority over cars under Madrid's new traffic plan. Photo: RGI / FLICKR
12:56 CEST+02:00
Traffic-blighted Madrid is to see a new approach to cars in the city centre, according to a new City Hall plan to which a leading Spanish newspaper has had access.

"Madrid is for people, not for vehicles," says the document, in which "positive discrimination" schemes to favour pedestrians, plus the use of bicycles and public transport are detailed.

Across the whole of the Spanish capital, the plan is to reduce traffic by eight percent by 2020, halve the numbers killed in traffic (32 last year) and help the city to comply with European pollution limits, standards which it is currently failing to meet.

The dark pall of smog hanging over Madrid is so familiar to locals that it is known as the city's "beret".

Despite having a public transport system which city authorities tout as one of the best in the world, the streets of Madrid still carry an average burden of more than 2.5 million journeys in private vehicles each weekday.

The Spanish capital's approximately 3.25 million residents own 1.7 million vehicles, 80 percent of which are cars.

City Hall, headed by Popular Party Mayor Ana Botella, the wife of former Spanish Prime Minister José María Aznar, wants to cut the number of journeys made in private vehicles from 29 to 22 percent, raising public transport journeys from 42 to 46 percent.

The rest would be accounted for by bike riders and pedestrians, whose journeys would rise to account for 32 percent of the total.

According to El País, the reduction in car use would be brought about by increasing the cost of parking in the city centre, virtually doubling the price of a "blue-zone" parking meter ticket from €2.75 to €4.85 for two hours, reducing traffic lanes by expanding pavements and pedestrianizing more of the city's streets, plus banning heavy vehicles at certain times and boosting the number of traffic patrol vehicles with mounted cameras.

Bus lanes would be increased by 90 kilometres and priority given to buses at traffic lights.

There are, however, no plans to repeat the severe traffic-restriction plans already in place in the central districts around Congress, the Huertas and Lavapiés neighbourhoods. 

Here only residents are permitted to use a large number of streets, a system which is enforced by cameras. This approach is considered too complex and expensive to be extended wholesale to the rest of the city centre, but there are plans to implement "cheaper solutions" to traffic problems in at least three other districts: Ópera, Justicia and Universidad.    

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