Madrid to ban cars from its crowded city center

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Madrid’s mayor, Manuela Carmena, is serious about kicking personal cars off the road in the city center.

On a November 5 show on Spanish radio network Cadena Ser, she confirmed that Madrid’s main avenue, the Gran Vía, will only allow access to bikes, buses, and taxis before she leaves office in May 2019, as noted by CityLab.

Carmena said she has every intention to “pedestrianize the Gran Vía in this legislature.” The effort is part of a larger plan to ban all diesel cars in Madrid by 2025.

Established in 1910, the Gran Vía is a busy, six-lane road that cuts through the city’s center — making the upcoming car ban highly ambitious.

In December, around holiday shopping time, Madrid blocked personal cars from the Gran Vía for nine days. Carmena’s rival and leader of the right-wing Popular Party in Madrid, Esperanza Aguirre, later threatened to sue the city for the temporary ban. Aguirre argued that it hurt businesses along road, since car-driving customers couldn’t access it.

However, in the interview with Cadena Ser, Carmena said businesses along the avenue told her that their profits increased 15% during those nine days compared to last year.

The main goal of the ban is to fight Madrid’s rising pollution, the city’s government has said. Madrid is already enforcing temporary driving restrictions in the city center when smog levels reach harmful peaks.

Carmena’s move is part of a growing global trend to make city streets more pedestrian-friendly. Copenhagen is building a bike superhighway radiating out from its city center, which will be ready by 2019. Oslo, Hamburg, Paris, and Mexico City are also working toward similar car bans, though not at Madrid’s scale.