In various countries, the policy of banning the use of private vehicles and switching to public and traditional transportation is starting to become a topic of discussion. Environmental problems, climate change, parking, traffic accidents, and congestion are the main reasons why a city must change.
Although it is still being debated, as reported by The Guardian, a city in Spain named Pontevedra has implemented this policy for 19 years and has had a positive impact from various sides. Here are 7 interesting facts about the city’s car-free policy.
- Pontevedra City has an area equivalent to Bogor City
Pontevedra has an area of 118.3 km2 with a population of 83 thousand inhabitants. Located in the west of Spain, the area of this city is equivalent to the city of Bogor which has an area of 118.5 km2.
In this city, the noise of the city, in general, has been replaced by the sound of birds chirping and human voices talking. Cool? The city’s car-free policy makes this city the most accessible city and has won various awards including The International European Prize, “Intermodes” in Brussels in 2013, the United Nations Habitat prize in Dubai in 2014, and the “Excellence Prize” of the Center for Active Design in New York City in 2015.
- Pedestrians can circle the entire city in just 25 minutes
“The size of this city is perfect for pedestrians. You can go around the whole city in just 25 minutes. There are many things to criticize, but there is no reason to reject this model,” said Rogelio Carballo Soler, a local architect as quoted by The Guardian.
Can you not walk for 25 minutes?
- The mayor’s philosophy of “owning a car doesn’t mean you can take over the city” was the beginning of this policy in 1999
Just like any other city, initially, Pontevedra was full of cars, pollution, and lots of traffic cases and even the historic center was dead.
“Before I became mayor, 14,000 cars passed on this road every day,” said Miguel Anxo Fernández Lores, mayor of the Galician in 1999. Seeing this, initially, he wanted to improve traffic conditions but because he lost the idea, he decided to implement this policy.
“What happens if parents and children can’t enjoy the streets because of cars? What happens if cars dominate public spaces?” he said.
- Illegal parking which is the main cause of congestion is replaced with 4 main parking lots underground and around the city so residents can travel outside the city without polluting their homes
Finding a parking space is the biggest problem for city dwellers. Finally, because there is no other choice, shop terraces, supermarkets, road bodies, and pedestrian areas become impromptu parking lots that can cause traffic jams. With this policy, the City of Pentavodra has escaped the problem. Shop or restaurant owners can expand their terraces and pedestrians can also walk freely.
The good thing is that this policy is also accompanied by other facilities for its citizens in the form of underground parking areas and around the city because the city government believes that the need for cars is still necessary for citizens to travel outside the city but still without polluting their homes.
- If one wants to get married in a car-free area, the groom and bride are allowed to use the car while the others walk. Likewise, if there is a funeral process
One of the contra reasons for implementing this policy is that not everyone can walk, especially in certain conditions such as weddings or funerals. But in this city, these things are of course still allowed to use a car.
- Zero traffic accidents since 2009, increasing population, avoiding the economic crisis, and reducing carbon emissions by 70%
This policy has proven to be effective in making Pontevedra City a city like a paradise on earth. Quoted from The Guardian, on the same road where 30 people died in traffic accidents from 1996 to 2006, it was reduced to 3 people in the next ten years, and 0 since 2009.
In terms of the environment, carbon emissions that are normally emitted from gas activities are reduced by 70%.
In addition, the concern that this policy will make its citizens live in hardship and move to other cities was not proven. The city’s population has increased by 12,000 residents.
From an economic perspective, the city also supports small businesses so that they can continue to survive when the Spanish economy is in crisis.
- Doctors argue that frequent walking makes Pontevedra residents healthier.
According to doctors, walking less than 3 km is very good for reducing obesity and heart problems. So, don’t be surprised if the residents of this city are in good health!
Those are 7 interesting facts about the car-free policy in Pontevedra Spain. Imagine if any other city in the world could follow this policy, then how much carbon would be reduced considering that transportation accounts for more than half of the carbon in our air. Should your city be car-free too?