Spain’s Málaga mulls scrapping new 30km/h speed limit due to traffic jams caused

Authorities in the Andalusian city have called into question Spain’s new speed limits on urban roads, having realised the knock-on effects of dropping the speed from 50km/ down to 30 or 20km/h. 

Spain's Málaga mulls scrapping new 30km/h speed limit due to traffic jams caused
Malaga was one of the only big cities in Spain that hadn't dropped its city cente speed limit below 50km/h before May 11th. Photo: Jonas Denil/Unsplash

Málaga, which has a population of 569,000 people, is the first of Spain’s big cities to consider reintroducing the previous speed limits on urban roads, having noticed that they’re causing traffic jams in the city. 

On May 11th 2021, roads in Spain with one lane in each direction went from having a general speed limit of 50km/hour to a maximum of 30km/h. This affects 3,600 roads in the coastal city, three quarters of the total. 

Single lane roads with one-way traffic where the pavement is raised above the road now also have a new speed limit of 30km/h. 

On single one-way lanes and double lane roads with two-way traffic where the pavement and the road are at the same level, the speed limit was reduced even further, down to 20km/h. With speeds this low, drivers in Spain have already started witnessing slightly surreal situations in which cyclists and e-scooter riders overtake them on the road. 

Roads with two lanes or more of traffic in each direction (minimum four total) have kept the speed limit of 50km/h (except for vehicles carrying dangerous goods, for which the limit is 40km/h).

FIND OUT MORE: Why you now have to drive at 30km/h on most roads in Spain

Since Málaga town hall applied the new speed limits on May 11th, with numerous fixed speed cameras and four mobile ones keeping an eye on drivers across the city, some of the busiest streets have been gridlocked as a result of the considerable speed drop. 

According to Andalusian regional daily Sur, Málaga’s government department responsible for urban mobility is now considering making use of a clause which would allow them to sidestep the new rules in some cases, as long as the roads are properly signposted with their own individual speed limit.

Malaga’s Provincial Traffic Authority have reportedly confirmed this is an option, stating that exceptions can be made on roads which have a high volume of traffic and on which the speed limit drop is causing traffic jam problems on that road and surrounding ones. 

Spain’s Interior Minister Fernando Grande Marlaska also stressed back in November that these new speed limits won’t apply to main roads in Spain’s big cities.

As with many official matters in Spain, local authorities are given the powers to adapt national legislation to their own particular needs, which can also apply to road rules.

In fact, many provincial capitals across Spain had already rolled out their own legislation limiting the speed on some of their urban roads to 30km/h rather than 50km/h, as a result of the long wait for this amendment of Spain’s Traffic Code by the national government.

Surpassing these new speed limits currently entails fines of €100 to €600 and the loss of six points from one’s driving licence in the most serious cases.

Critics of Spain’s new speed limits for urban roads have stressed that apart from causing more traffic congestion, driving at a very low speed more often results in a vehicle’s clutch and other parts being damaged more easily and that emmissions are also higher when vehicles are stopping and starting and kept in low gears. 

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Can the UK’s Blue Badge for disabled parking be used in Spain?

The UK’s Blue Badge scheme allows disabled drivers to park in special parking spaces closer to their destination, but can it be used if you're on holiday in Spain or living in Spain? The Local has spoken with the British Embassy in Madrid to find out.

Can the UK's Blue Badge for disabled parking be used in Spain?

The Blue Badge for disabled drivers issued by UK authorities features a symbol of a person in a wheelchair and should be displayed in the front of your car if you’re parked in a special disabled spot.

But can you use the same badge in your car in Spain?

When the UK was still part of the EU, these disabled badges for parking could be used throughout the bloc, but since January 1st 2021 when Brexit officially came into force, there have been some doubt regarding this. 

In other words, some disabled drivers visiting Spain who wish to rent a car or British residents living in Spain with UK disability cards are now uncertain as to whether their badges will be recognised here or not. 

In Spain, on roads and in car parks, parking places reserved for disabled people are marked with a wheelchair symbol.

The EU has its own parking card for people with disabilities and the recognition of the UK’s badge has always been an informal agreement between governments.

The advice from the UK government has always been for UK Blue Badge holders to check locally within the country they are travelling to, before using it abroad. 

The British Embassy in Madrid told The Local: “This advice did not change following the UK’s exit from the EU and to date no EU/EEA nation has specifically stated that it will not recognise a UK-issued disabled parking card”. 

However, the rules and advice are slightly different depending on if you are visiting Spain or living here. 

The UK government website states “You can use your UK Blue Badge when travelling in some European Union (EU) countries, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland”.

However, under the list of EU countries where you can use the UK Blue Badge, the UK government says Spain is “undecided” and asks drivers to check with the Spanish Embassy for more information.

This is causing a lot of uncertainty among UK Blue Badge holders and has sparked many debates on social media groups used by Brits in Spain. 

The British Embassy in Madrid has confirmed to The Local that: “Where the table states ‘undecided’, that doesn’t indicate that a particular nation has stated they will not recognise a UK issued parking card, merely that the UK doesn’t have a specific notification of reciprocity of the UK’s goodwill gesture”. 

This means that while Spain has not officially said that it will not recognise a disabled blue parking badge issued in the UK, there is no reciprocal agreement in place. 

While many British people visiting Spain say that they are continuing to use them without problem, others are reporting that Spanish authorities in some areas will not accept them anymore.

One member of the N332 Facebook group, (a group created by Spanish traffic police officers and volunteers) wrote: “To be honest I use my blue badge in Spain and it has not caused me any issues since Brexit. I think as long as a badge is displayed in the parking spaces no one will say or do anything”.

However, another commentator said that their friend was fined for using a UK blue badge in Spain.

According to the Spanish authorities, fines of up to €200 can be handed out for those who park in a disabled spot without the proper permit, although that’s not to say that a UK Blue Badge is not a proper permit.

So if you’re visiting Spain and have a disabled parking card, you should contact the local authorities first to find out if you can use your UK-issued parking card, otherwise you technically could be using it at your own risk and could be fined.  

In some places in Spain, you may find that authorities turn a blind eye, while in others may tell you that your badge is not valid.

Can you use your UK Blue Badge if you’re living in Spain?

The UK government website states: “If you have a UK Blue Badge and live in Spain, you must return it to the original UK issuing authority. You can apply for a new Spanish disabled parking card. The process is different in each region of Spain. Contact your local town hall or social services department for further information”.

So those who live in Spain should apply for the equivalent of the UK’s blue badge here. This is called the Tarjeta acreditativa de discapacidad or Tarjeta de grado de discapacidad, depending on where you live.

Examples of different disabled parking cards issued by Spain’s regions. Image: Fundación Once

The not-for-profit project Support in Spain warns that it can be a lengthy process to apply for the Spanish equivalent and that many have been waiting months or even years for their cards to be issued. This has left many foreign disabled residents in Spain in a difficult situation.

Another member of the N332 Facebook group wrote: “Why does it take so long to get a blue badge in Spain? My husband has advanced Parkinson’s and dementia. We have been waiting almost a year and our town hall tells me this is normal”. 

How to apply for Spain’s disabled parking card?

Firstly, in order to apply, you will need to make an appointment with your doctor in Spain to certify that you have a degree of disability that warrants a disabled parking card. Typically, applicants must prove that they have a disability of at least 33 percent in order to be eligible for the Spanish disabled parking card.

Your doctor may also need to refer you to a specialist. Getting this disability certificate, or reconocimiento de discapacidad as it’s called in Spanish, is the reason the process takes so long. This certificate is the same document you’ll need in order to apply for disability benefits in Spain too.

As mentioned above, the process of applying is slightly different, depending on what region of Spain you live in. Typically, you will have to go to your local Equality and Social Policies Department (Departamento de Igualdad y Políticas Sociales) or at your local town hall (ayuntamiento) and fill out the necessary paperwork.

This will then need to be submitted along with your disability certificate and any notes from your doctors, before your application can be processed. 

Those who are worried about how long the process will take should contact their local town hall to find out the average time frame in their area.