Pontevedra, Spain: Where Cars Are Banned
"Miguel Anxo Fernández Lores has been mayor of the Galician city [of Pontevedra] since 1999. His philosophy is simple: owning a car doesn’t give you the right to occupy the public space," writes Stephen Burgen.
“How can it be that the elderly or children aren’t able to use the street because of cars?” asks César Mosquera, the city’s head of infrastructures. “How can it be that private property – the car – occupies the public space?”
After describing the program of pedestrianization Mayor Fernández implemented after his election, Burgen lists the benefits of the program to the economy, environment, and quality of life of the city:
The benefits are numerous. On the same streets where 30 people died in traffic accidents from 1996 to 2006, only three died in the subsequent 10 years, and none since 2009. CO2 emissions are down 70%, nearly three-quarters of what were car journeys are now made on foot or by bicycle, and, while other towns in the region are shrinking, central Pontevedra has gained 12,000 new inhabitants. Also, withholding planning permission for big shopping centres has meant that small businesses – which elsewhere have been unable to withstand Spain’s prolonged economic crisis – have managed to stay afloat.