Viewpoints from Pontevedres

Accomplish • Pulse #4 • 3 min

In 1999, the Spanish  city of Pontevedra started its transformation to become almost entirely car-free. Today, 72% of trips are done on foot or by bicycle.

“Pontevedra is a great town for children! They can play outside without any worries, it’s quite safe. The forecourt in front of the school was pedestrianised recently and the schoolkids even had their say on the project. Us adults also benefit from pedestrianisation, even though it means that my husband and I can no longer park where we live. So, instead we rent a parking space. We’re ready to make a few small sacrifices if it means having a better quality of life.”
Axa Tilve, writer and designer, and mother of two children, aged six and eight

“What’s incredible is the amount of respect drivers show to pedestrians. If you meet a car coming the opposite way in the Old Town, the driver either stops or moves aside to let you by! I must admit I wasn’t in favour of the plans initially, but there’s no doubt pedestrianisation has had a positive impact in several ways. And not just for tourists but for the wellbeing of everyone who lives here, too. The only regret I have is that in the few streets where stores are empty, it’s a bit dead.”
Miguel Lago, store owner

“For people with reduced mobility, pedestrianisation is very positive. It’s always better when we can reclaim space from cars. However, the infrastructure now needs to be improved for the blind and visually impaired. Pavements have gone from the town centre, so we need to adapt the road surface to guide people who use a white cane by integrating different types of paving stones to differentiate areas.”
Paulo Fontan, chairman of an association for people with reduced mobility

“Before, there were so many cars parked on the street you couldn’t see my pharmacy! Pedestrianisation hasn’t harmed my business — quite the opposite, in fact. It’s also improved my health, as now I can walk easily to work. Thanks to traffic restrictions the air in the town is cleaner. Outside the pedestrian area, however, there are traffic jams at certain times of day, especially when people are leaving work or fetching their children from school.”
Jose Luis Dominguez Gomez, pharmacist

“I deliver beer and soft drinks to the bars in Pontevedra. I’m only authorised to drive into the Old Town up to midday, but sometimes customers aren’t available until late morning, which means I go slightly over the delivery hours… Fortunately, the authorities are pragmatic. It’s a bit trickier outside the town centre. Drivers aren’t allowed to park, so they apply the one-minute drop-off rule, which slows me down on my route.”
Juan Daniel Garcia y Sorna, delivery driver

“Pedestrianisation is happening globally! Here in Pontevedra, it’s changed our lives for the better. You can leave your car for as long as you like in one of the five large edge-of-town parking facilities (ed. note: known as ‘dissuasive car parks’). Unfortunately, they quickly fill up. Local people need more parking spaces. Plus, the free car parks should be asphalted. For now, they’re just rough ground, so when it rains you get muddy shoes!”
Santy Mosteiro, journalist


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