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Demonstration to keep central Madrid car-free
By thinkSPAIN Team Fri, Jun 28, 2019
A HUGE demonstration in support of keeping Madrid city centre traffic-free to cut air pollution is due to set off tomorrow (Saturday) at 19.00 from the Callao district as far as the Cibeles fountain roundabout, where organisers will hand in a petition with over 183,000 signatures.
The vehicle-free zone, known as 'Madrid Central', was created by former city mayoress Manuela Carmena, but is now threatened by the new right-wing coalition council led by the PP, under José Luis Martínez-Almeida, and Ciudadanos, led by Begoña Villacís.
Environment Commissioner for the European Union, Miguel Arias Cañete - on the same party as Almeida - has already spoken against scrapping 'Madrid Central', calling it an essential tool in the fight against contaminated air.
Almeida and Villacís have opted to suspend fines for anyone driving into the city centre and to just give them a warning instead, and to increase bus services to discourage people from using their cars, but both appear keen to end the scheme altogether and allow traffic back into the main hub of the city.
Madrid council had been summoned to Brussels a year ago, along with local authorities in many other European cities, to explain their unhealthy levels of air pollution and detail what they intended to do about it.
The result was a ban on all bar resident vehicles and those of a limited number of residents' visitors in the central 'almond' of Spain's capital, unless these vehicles were emissions-free.
Restricted hours for delivery drivers, and a concession for those purely entering the city en route to underground car parks, were applied, leaving only public transport and emergency vehicles permitted within the 'almond'.
As a result, air pollution has dropped dramatically, and with it, stress levels for commuters, who had long complained of the time they wasted in traffic jams and trying to find parking spaces.
"In the end you get so frustrated you just feel like setting fire to your car," one insurance worker said.
The 183,000 who signed the petition to keep Madrid’s car-free zone on Change.org, plus Commissioner Cañete and groups including Ecologists Madrid, Youth for Climate, Mothers for Climate, and the Madrid Regional Federation of Residents' Associations (FRAVM) all say it would be 'irresponsible' to lift the traffic ban in the city centre.
An estimated seven million people worldwide die every year as a direct result of air pollution - roughly one in every 1,000 inhabitants on earth.
In built-up European countries, it is estimated that up to 96% of the population breathes in unhealthy air - particularly in those nations where the vast majority of inhabitants live in large towns and cities.
Living in an area which suffers air pollution is as harmful to health as smoking a packet of cigarettes a day, experts say, and is a direct cause of respiratory and circulatory illnesses, cancer, stress, depression and headaches.
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