Manuela Carmena’s Madrid Central was the workhorse used by the Popular Party during the 2019 municipal election campaign. The candidate José Luis Martínez-Almeida became one of the main detractors of the mobility ordinance that the progressive corporation started in 2018. “Madrid Central has to end, it has been a failure,” Almeida assured in the campaign.

However, the discourse has changed in just three years. “This Executive has a government project, an investiture project, and both spoke specifically of improving Central Madrid,” declared the mayor just a week ago, during the presentation of the proposal for the new mobility ordinance of the Consistory.

The text, which must be voted on in the plenary session of the City Council on September 10, has measures included in the previous regulations, although with certain modifications.

A “necessary and essential” regulation

The repeal of the old Central Madrid was certified last May by the Supreme Court. However, from the Popular Party in the City Council and Community of Madrid -among others- several appeals were previously presented before the Superior Court of Justice of Madrid to declare the nullity of the rule.

Despite the legal battle undertaken by the City Council, the preamble to the local government’s normative project specifies that the new regulation responds to the need to “protect public health, the right to life and physical integrity, as well as the right to an urban environment “.

The reasons that the current corporation alleges to approve the new ordinance is that it is a “rational, necessary, essential and proportional norm to satisfy said overriding reasons of general interest”.

Although Madrid Central’s proposal was harshly criticized by the popular during the 2019 campaign, the regulation itself recognizes that there are “reasons that motivate” the approval of certain measures to improve air quality.

The big news: Plaza Elíptica

The main novelty contemplated by the local government is the creation of a Low Emission Zone (ZBE) that will affect, as of 2025, the entire Madrid capital, as well as two Special Protection Low Emission Zones (ZBEDEP): the central zone – contemplated in the proposal of the previous corporation – and Plaza Elíptica.

The inclusion of this area as ZBEDEP responds to the high levels of nitrogen dioxide registered in recent years, especially during 2020, when, despite the fall in traffic due to the pandemic, the measurement station was the only one in Spain. that exceeded the maximum levels of pollution set by the European Union.

To improve the air quality of the new ZBEDEPs, Borja Carabante, delegate for the Environment and Mobility of the City Council, assures that it is necessary to restrict the circulation of the most polluting vehicles. “Cars with label A (without distinctive), pollute 7.2 times more than vehicles B and 42 more than Eco vehicles. Therefore, it is necessary to delimit the circulation of this type of vehicles, but without carrying out a policy of massive restriction, ”he says.

The delimitation proposed by the Consistory is to delimit the transit of vehicles without distinctive marking in the ZBEDEP, except for residents and, unlike what is established by the previous regulations, merchants.

The exclusion of the latter from the prohibition section has been harshly criticized by various groups, as it supposes an increase in the circulation of vehicles that can reach 18,000 trips, according to a report by Ecologists in Action. Juan Bárcena, the organization’s air quality coordinator, assures that this novelty represents a setback for the capital.

“Allowing merchants’ vehicles to circulate through the new ZBEDEPs will mean an increase in travel and pollution. In addition, the inclusion of Plaza Elíptica in the protected areas is not a sufficient advance either. 95% of the cars that circulate in the area will continue to do so, since there are very few vehicles without a badge. The problem of Plaza Elíptica is the access to Madrid by the A.42, which passes underneath, not so much the cars from the surface. It is announcing something that is not so relevant, “says Bárcena.

Will more cars pass through restricted areas?

The total number of vehicles registered in the Community of Madrid amounted to 5,098,713 in 2020, according to data from the General Directorate of Traffic. Of them, around two million are in the capital. However, a vast majority of vehicles will not be affected by the changes contemplated in the draft of the new ordinance.

Although the stricter limitations especially affect vehicles without a label, which will be prohibited from circulating in the municipality from 2025 (as contemplated in the plan of the previous corporation), other restrictions have been relaxed.

Vehicles with labels B and C may circulate on the ZBEDEP to park in public or private car parks, to take and collect children from kindergartens, schools or institutes. In addition, residents and merchants whose vehicles have these badges, will be able to circulate freely.

Among the proposals of the new ordinance, in addition, it is included the extension of the hours of movement of motorcycles until 23 hours, that is to say, one hour more than what is foreseen in the previous regulations.

Will the project go ahead?

The plenary session of the Madrid City Council will vote on the new mobility ordinance on September 10. Although the Popular Party and Citizens, government partners, will support the proposal, PSOE and Más Madrid have announced their intention to vote against, something that VOX is also considering, whose leaders have declared that they will not approve the proposal.

Given the lack of support from other forces, the local Executive must obtain the four votes belonging to the councilors of Recupera Madrid, the formation framed in the mixed group and made up of the exediles Carmenistas who split from Más Madrid last March.

However, for the project to have the approval of the former councilors of Más Madrid, certain conditions will be necessary, as one of its members, José Manuel Calvo, assured in statements to the SER. “The ordinance will have our support provided that two conditions are met: that Central Madrid is maintained under the same terms and conditions that were agreed during the government of Manuela Carmena and, on the other hand, that the necessary measures are incorporated so that the ordinance is up to the challenges that the capital has, “stated Calvo.

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