In the hodgepodge of rules and counter-rules issued in Madrid to restrict the advance of the coronavirus in recent weeks, the pedestrianization plan on Sundays was blurred, by which up to 12 city streets were closed to road traffic. Operational since the second week of September (after being also at the beginning of the de-escalation, with good results), the idea was to give more space for the neighbors to walk and keep their social distance more easily, but the plan was suspended on the first Sunday in October on the occasion of the perimeter closure dictated reluctantly by the Community of Madrid.
This week, the order was annulled by the Superior Court of Justice first and the state of alarm decreed by the state government later, the initiative was activated again for the three days of the Pilar bridge, finally only half and to the detriment of the south of the city: of the original 12 roads, only six were reserved for pedestrians, and five of those excluded are in the neighborhoods of Carabanchel and Villaverde.
The mayor, José Luis Martínez-Almeida, defended this Sunday at a press conference the turn of the screw, after taking a walk through a fenced section of Paseo del Prado. “We could not go to the classic scheme that we had of pedestrianization, but we had to measure them very well depending on what the situation was at the moment, the regulation of the state of alarm, the location and the possibility that all the neighbors could access” , has declared.
Pedestrianization continues to be a divisive issue in Madrid, where a walk down any street allows you to hear opinions for and against. Cars continue to play a prominent role and many are reluctant to do without them. This is not the case of José González, owner of the bars El Chigre and La Piragua de San Isidro, which he has closed. While he had an aperitif with his friends in the competition, he protested because the City Council has not allowed him to put up terraces and because the pedestrianization of the Paseo del 15 de Mayo, which begins a few meters ahead of where he has the premises, did not last more than “two weekends”. “They have abandoned us,” he lamented, sad because the street “could be one of the best.”
Not far from there Javier and Fernando, both Cabify drivers who no longer work on Sunday, were having a few beers, precisely because of the pedestrianization in Madrid. “Between the day of the cyclist, the day of the wheelchair, the day of the children … It did not compensate,” explained Fernando, who at the same time supported pedestrianization during the de-escalation to avoid crowds. “Madrid Rio [que está muy cerca] it looked like the M-30 “, he recalled. The longest section of the neighborhood that was renounced to pedestrianization runs along the Paseo de la Ermita del Santo to Carpetana, with three lanes for each direction of traffic and parallel to the San Isidro park (closed the last week, now open again) Demetrio, retired, is sympathetic to the two positions when leaving the supermarket: “I like it, but the vehicles have to move.”
Further south, the Gran Vía de Villaverde separates San Cristóbal and Los Rosales and was the longest pedestrianized segment of the city, some 2.3 kilometers long. This afternoon it was practically deserted. María José was ‘jogging’ alone with her headphones on, but she stopped to point out that the changes in criteria have people confused. “Sánchez says one thing and Ayuso the opposite, they close a street and open it at the hour,” he complained, although he understood that the road was open to cars this Sunday, because “everyone is in the mountains.” Not being able to go to Leganés seems less practical to her. “It’s five minutes away and I can’t go, but I can go to the Bernabéu,” he compared.
A while later, Pilar, a Villaverde resident for years, appeared on the sidewalk. “The sidewalks are quite wide and you can walk, in the afternoon it will be full of people,” he said, although he pointed out that she leaves earlier, when there is no one, “to be able to go without a mask.” If there is pedestrianization, that’s fine with him, and if not, he doesn’t care. “I look for the time that suits me,” he cleared.
Where there are in good numbers is at noon on the Paseo del Prado, which had already been closing on weekends during Manuela Carmena’s term. The current mayor took advantage of the good day to notify the media that he was going for a walk. It was 10 minutes, between Neptune and Cibeles, where the councilor took photos with several neighbors, all very happy to see him. Some were enthusiastic: “I’m dying! How cool!” A young woman celebrated after posing with Almeida.
Another woman, more veteran, also congratulated him, but asked him to dedicate himself “to the mayor’s office, not so much to the PP [Almeida es el portavoz del partido]”. The councilor later gave a press conference in which he demanded that the state of alarm be suspended on Tuesday if it is confirmed that infections per 100,000 inhabitants fall below 500 in the city, he said that the use of public transport increased on Saturday 12.5 percent called for “equal treatment” to Madrid than the rest of the autonomous communities and called “disproportionate” the deployment of police officers in the capital to ensure the perimeter closure.
As in the city center, the residents of Chamberí who circulated placidly in the afternoon on the small pedestrianized section between Ríos Rosas and Cea Bermúdez were in favor of the measure. Marina and Lola, sisters, pushed the wheelchair of their mother, Manuela. “It is great for us, with the saddle it goes much better on the asphalt than on the sidewalk.” Sofía and Miguel, who were walking with their young son, appreciated the measure, but asked for the reopening of the nearby park under construction. Miguel, a friend of the couple, joked: “I have one criterion when I drive and another when I walk.”
The only street in the north of the city that was dropped from the list of pedestrianizations is a section of Arturo Soria starting from the Ciudad Lineal metro stop. There the space gained was a lane on each side of the median, delimited with cones. Today they were not. “It was a bit chaotic, cyclists mixed with grandparents,” criticized Celia, who was walking the dog. “Here there is usually not much traffic, you don’t notice the difference,” agreed Beatriz, another neighbor, a few steps further. Reading the newspaper in a bank, José, who declares that he has never had a car, criticizes the “provincial mentality” of those who oppose pedestrianization and the use of bicycles. “It seemed like a good idea to me,” tied the survey by José Antonio, who had been walking from Sanchinarro.