Cyclists look at Alcala Street, which was free of cars as part of European Mobility Week in central Madrid. (Andrea Comas/Reuters)
Madrid just gave its citizens a present for the holidays. The city closed the entire city center to most cars, turning the urban core into a de facto pedestrian zone.
Starting last Friday at 5 p.m. and continuing for nine days, vehicles belonging to non-residents are banned from entering a zone covering Madrid’s historic core as well as Gran Via, the blaring, multi-lane avenue that serves as the Spanish capital’s main drag and as a major through-route for crosstown traffic.
Buses, cabs and residents’ cars will still be crawling the streets, although restricted to a specially lowered 30 kmh (18 mph) speed limit. The otherwise blanket ban in the throbbing, vehicle-packed heart of a major metropolis is one of the boldest anti-car plans seen in Europe so far. To get a loose idea of the scale in American terms, imagine banning all cars in Manhattan from driving south of 14th Street.