Pedestrianization halts a Spanish city’s decline

In central Pontevedra, pedestrians now have absolute priority. And in just over two decades, the home to 80,000 inhabitants has been changed from a city in decay to an attractive place to live.

It’s only outside Pontevedra’s central perimeter that cars can move with relative freedom. In the old town and surrounding streets of the 80,000-strong Spanish city, pedestrians have absolute priority. In just over two decades, it’s changed from being a city in decay to an attractive place to live. 

The Benefits of Proximity

Elena Herroro moved to Pontevedra from Madrid to cut out commuting and for convenience.

“Everything here is pretty close,” she says. “I’ve the health centre almost behind my house, the hospital is also close by, I’ve several supermarkets, under my house in fact, so nothing essential is far away.”

The city’s model has also impacted local businesses, with a 7% increase in shops and restaurants in the wake of the reforms. Innovations have emerged: this shop, as well as selling sports equipment, serves as a meeting point for runners and cyclists.

“People go out to stroll around the city and that’s a big benefit for local businesses, who get more sales and make a bigger impact,” says Victor Riobó, owner of Miler Vintage Running Club.

A strategy to ensure acceptance

The changes started in 1999, first with the pedestrianization of the old town, then the implementation of a strategy to ensure the transformation was seen as positive.

“Every city has its main commercial street, an artery, that defines its character,” says César Mosquera, councillor and promoter of pedestrianisation in Pontevedra. “If you pedestrianize it or make it pedestrian-friendly, you are transmitting an image: what’s modern, what’s cool, what’s contemporary… is restricting cars.”

The City Council also created Metrominuto, a map similar to the subway maps of big cities, with walking times between different places.

“It helps,” says tourist Anxo Patiño. “It encourages you to discover the old districts of a city like Pontevedra by foot, strolling and enjoying every corner.”

Increased security

Road traffic is limited to 10 kilometres per hour inside the city centre and justified access is allowed only for a short period of time.

Since the authorities updated the city’s planning, Pontevedra has achieved a milestone: no pedestrian has been killed in a traffic accident in over a decade.

They’ve also sought to make the city safe at night. This is achieved through lighting to illuminate dark spots and ensure maximum visibility for pedestrians in areas where they interact with cars. The lights also adapt to the human rhythm: whiter in the first hours of darkness, when there’s still activity, and then changing colour.

“It ends up as a pleasant, peaceful light that doesn’t pollute from a visual point of view and invites us to rest, to be calm, relaxed and ultimately to sleep,” says Ángel González, Executive Chairman of SETGA.

UN recognition

In 2014 the United Nations named Pontevedra as Europe’s most comfortable city to live in. The City Council’s goal now is to extend pedestrianization.

Source: Euro News

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