Cycling and walking – Madrid on the move

9 June 2021

Madrid, which aims to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 65% by 2030, compared to 1990 levels, and to achieve climate neutrality by 2050, is one of the leading cities in Europe for the green transition.

This ambition includes plans to transform the whole of Madrid into a Low Emission Zone, and promote micro and shared mobility, according to the city’s Mayor, José Luis Martínez-Almeida Navasqués, who was the recent host of the Eurocities Mobility Forum.

Mayor Almeida making use of the public transport options available in Madrid

And through the city’s environmental sustainability strategy, ‘Madrid 360’, which includes over 200 measures to improve air quality, as well as measures aimed at climate mitigation and adaptation, the city is more than doing its part to localise the European Green Deal. For example, “the historical expansion of BiciMad – public systems for the rental of electric bicycles,” says Almeida, and “the first free electric bus lines in the city: the Zero Lines (zero emission, zero costs for users), which have been running for almost a year in the centre of the capital.”

Such developments, together with the new pedestrian and cycling infrastructure, and the low emission zone, mean that the city is on track to meets its climate targets, while promoting sustainable mobility and public transport.

Making the transition possible

“I think that the European Union can be climate neutral by the year 2050,” explains Mayor Almeida, “and in the Madrid City Hall we are working to achieve this by working on concrete targets in the short term.”

However, the link between different levels of government could be a lot stronger, given that EU and international agreements mean that national governments aim to meet similarly ambitious climate targets. The mayor speaks of a “great lack of transparency regarding the Recovery Fund” and explains that “the plan sent by the Spanish Government to the European Union has not been made known to the city halls nor has it had the opinion of the local entities for its drafting”.

This underrepresentation of city actions and city efforts is part of the reason why Madrid is joining around 25 other European cities to form a new Mayors Alliance for the European Green Deal, including Toulouse – the Chair of the Eurocities Mobility Forum.

The alliance will aim to bolster city voices in both national and European debates, in order to show that the sustainable and inclusive transition to a climate neutral society is possible, with the inclusion of mayors and cities.

With this in mind, the mayor is also keen to share details on what his city is doing to make the urban area more accessible to all, such as ensuring that all buses are fully accessible, as are many of the city’s metro stations.

“In addition,” he says, “there are subsidised monthly passes for senior citizens (less than €10 per month) and young people (€20 per month) that allow these segments of the population to have access to affordable public transport.”

Lessons from the pandemic

During the pandemic, like other European cities, Madrid recorded a sharp (90%) decline in mobility around the city.

“We implemented numerous measures to promote sustainable mobility,” says the Mayor, “such as the pedestrianisation of large areas and streets of the city during weekends, temporary bike lanes, and the increase of almost 30% in the number of exclusive use bus lanes.”

In addition, Madrid City Council also worked with large companies to limit demand on public transport at particular times of the day by implementing mixed schedules, teleworking, and by facilitating flexible working hours. This proved to be a great way to reduce peak hours and congestion in the city of Madrid.

Adapting public space for people

“Another lesson we have observed during the pandemic,” adds Almeida, “is the need for public space that citizens have, hence the implementation of zero emission zones in all districts on a permanent basis and during weekends in emblematic areas for the city, the signalling of temporary bike lanes, or the implementation of two major cycling routes such as Paseo de la Castellana and Joaquin Costa.”

Now, as more people are travelling again, the mayor notes a concern: more people seem to be using private, rather than public transport. A communications campaign, designed to show that “public transport is as safe as shopping in a supermarket,” is one of the ways the city now hopes to bring people back to cleaner modes of travel and stick to its environmental goals.

Read the key takeaways of the Eurocities Mobility Forum opening day here.

Plaza de Isabel II


Alex Godson Eurocities Writer