Madrid Bans Cars, Plans Plants

Madrid Bans Cars, Plans Plants

Cities have been kicking out cars to curb pollution and boost the well-being of their residents. But Madrid has proposed something even smarter. It's not only banning cars from its downtown, it's adding more green space. This is an important part of the equation that many cities don't get right. In 2014, Madrid announced a progressive plan to ban all cars from many central neighbourhoods as well as a more comprehensive ban of diesel-powered vehicles (which is becoming standard in many large European cities). Now there's the makeover the city needs to prepare for that future: The Madrid + Natural plan, announced this weekend by engineering firm Arup. In order to prepare the city for inevitable effects of climate change -- hotter summers with less rainfall -- Arup plans to counteract the root of those problems by cleaning, greening and cooling the city on a very grand scale.

Madrid Bans Cars, Plans Plants

That's why a key part of the proposal is simply to plant more trees. Lots more trees, and pretty much everywhere possible. Green roofs, green walls, green infrastructure. These will not only give people more enjoyable places for residents, but in some cases, swapping hot asphalt with more permeable surfaces can help to cool the city at street-level.

Madrid Bans Cars, Plans Plants

It also means capturing and storing water when it does rain in the form of gardens and fields -- not storm drains that flush the water away. Most of all, I love the idea of "greenery districts" which are essentially heavily vegetated streets that can provide an oasis for wildlife in the city and also give humans a respite from the heat.

Madrid Bans Cars, Plans Plants

Especially after the Paris climate talks, cities are trying to reduce their carbon footprints, but reducing or removing cars only solves half of the problem. You not only have to beef up transit options and build better infrastructure for walking and biking, you also have to re-green the city to reclaim that automobile real estate for people and nature. We've seen the same half-approaches in Milan, Delhi, and Beijing over the last few months when some or all of the cars have been removed from streets for a predetermined period -- pollution is reduced, at least for the moment, but it always comes back.

This is exactly why temporary car bans don't work. The city doesn't propose enough bigger changes that will affect the long-term health of its residents. Madrid is taking a huge and very important step in that direction.

[Madrid + Natural via CityLab]



    It's gonna require a lot of captured rain and storm water. And what about public transport? There would have to be investment in this area to make up for the ban on cars in the downtown district.

    All that said, I think it's a great idea. I'd like to see it work in smaller cities first.

    Last edited 28/01/16 12:54 pm

      Madrid has a pretty good Metro system, I doubt it runs at capacity now, so the investment is probably minimal.

    Trees lining a street make them immensely more enjoyable to walk along. I hope the councils of our Australian towns and cities follow this example.

      Launceston, Tasmania has got a lot of parks and is in general very green. Couple years ago the council commissioned trees to be planted along the busiest central roads, for some reason it caused a massive stink up. Currently it hasn't changed those streets much as the trees are struggling. I reckon small businesses offering this kind of product to business and people is the only way it is really going to take off. If it's a publicly supported things people are going to complain that there are better things to spend taxes on.

    Love it. I want to see more of these projects that start the discussion about the transition. What can be done and what is the best way to do it. Yes there are problems to be sorted but without it being pushed into line of sight we won't achieve anything.

    I applaud Madrid's decision to put the car genie back in the bottle.

    So the cities who maintained electric trolley buses and trams were right all along.

    Now all we need is to clean up the energy generation with storage etc.

    When everyone moves to electric transport there will be a decade long glut (I hope) of oil based fuels making remote transport and travel very affordable for the struggling rural masses. Will Keep the cities clean though.

    Reduce Reuse Recycle - Incinerate at end of life.

    Last edited 28/01/16 8:56 pm

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