Madrid: the barbarity of taking steps back in the fight against pollution
The new mayor of Madrid, the conservative José Luis Martínez-Almeida, has approved a traffic plan for Madrid that aims to eliminate Madrid Central, the scheme introduced earlier this year by his predecessor that has proved its effectiveness in reducing air pollution and congestion in the city.
In an impressive display of environmental illiteracy and breathtaking arrogance, the mayor assumes the capital’s residents are fools, arguing that by lifting the restrictions, he will somehow reduce air pollution. The plan, the work of consultants awarded the project without any kind of public oversight, is a huge step back and reopens the center of the city to all vehicles as long as they are occupied by two people, in the process sending a message that restrictions are an inconvenience that can be relaxed. This is the worst kind of populism, coming as Spain goes to the polls for the fourth time in as many years.
There is only one way to manage cities: increase traffic restrictions in residential areas. Car use has to made increasingly difficult, particularly those high emission levels. The idea that lifting restrictions will produce better results is crazy. Martínez-Almeida’s approach here is simply to kick the can down the road in the hope of winning electoral support, and leave the problem to somebody else for later on.
Madrid Central was a relatively modest move: there are fewer traffic restrictions in the Spanish capital than most other European capitals, and the indicators would advise a progressive extension of its restrictions. Instead, what has the mayor of Madrid, supported by a coalition of climate change deniers, done after taking office? Push ahead with his electoral promise to eliminate Madrid Central. When the courts blocked him, he said he would present “more efficient measures.” What are those measure? Eliminate restrictions that people had already accepted, and once again allow cars to drive wherever they please.
Hopefully, Brussels will take note of these measures, legislate if possible against their implementation, and sanction City Hall for its efforts to roll back desperately needed measures. In the meantime, voters need to understand which political parties are trying to do tackle the climate emergency, and which are in denial, minimizing its impact, or trying to implement “smoother transitions”, a euphemism for “let somebody else sort it out.”
Smart cities need smart politicians. Stupid politicians will come up with stupid solutions, as we have just seen.
(En español, aquí)