Gran Via, which has been developed since 19 th century, is a high-class shopping district and famous tourist’s spot with century-old historic buildings. Located in the heart of the city, the 6-lane road serves as an essential route for crosstown traffic.
The role of the avenue in transport network is so crucial and its traffic flow is extremely high. You may be surprised by the city announcing the road will be pedestrianized and only bikes, buses and taxis are allowed to access. The Mayor Manuela Carmena promised that, the scheme will be implemented no later than 2019. To show it is pragmatic, there was a 9-day trial run in Dec last year, despite the opposed parties threatening to sue the city for the closure. There is another point worth to notice: The closure happened after the car-free day in September that got a huge support from the public to shift from cars to public transport, but it ended up in a severe congestion. This may reflected that the public transport network is not ready for Madrid as a car-free city. However, these factors do not stop the city from launching the trial and the plan.
There was a nine-day trial closure of Gran Via in Dec last year. (source: Reuters)
Pedestrianisation is only possible with mayor’s determination, together with the support of policy – The General Urban Plan. It is created by the government about every 15 years. The one released in 2013 stated that, a new hierarchy of urban planning will be in place: pedestrians come first, followed by public transport, bikes and finally cars, which is contrast to car-friendly principal in the past. Tracing the cause of the change of philosophy in planning, it can be attributed to the fact that Madrid suffers from smog, which is described as the city covering by a cap known locally as La Boina. Hence, taking action to combat air pollution is urgent.
General Urban Plan:
- Pedestrian first, then public transport, bike and finally cars
- Revitalize 24 main streets
- 66% of the affected road surface will be given back to pedestrians
It’s not easy to take off the cap. Mayor of Madrid has shown her strong determination by pedestrianizing GranVia in 2-years’ time. When will Hong Kong, with the record of failing to meet WHO standard of nitrogen dioxide over the past 20 years, start to act?