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Madrid looks to ban polluting diesel cars from 2020

City environment chief also wants to extend public bike rental schemes beyond BiciMad

Madrid City Hall is looking to ban polluting diesel cars from the city center from 2020, leftist Mayor Manuela Carmena’s environment chief has revealed to EL PAÍS.

“We will have to take some time with this and explain it properly,” said Inés Sabanés. “There are currently measures to deal with high pollution levels and access restrictions in the city center, but there will come a time when polluting cars will not be able to circulate and restrictive measures will have to be taken in the entire downtown area.”

Paris has already announced it will ban all diesel vehicles in 2020

The decision by the Ahora Madrid administration follows similar moves in other European capitals. Paris has already announced it will ban all diesel vehicles in 2020, while London is opting to charge diesel cars a further €12 on top of the €14 all vehicles already have to pay to enter the city center.

Spain’s economic crisis has seen the average age of vehicles almost double in Madrid – from 5.7 years in 2008 to 9.3 in 2013 – while almost 70% of the city’s 4.2 million cars run on diesel.

At the same time the Industry Ministry has yet to deliver its planned vehicle categorization system for nitrogen dioxide (NO2) emissions. Under the proposed system, cars registered prior to 2001 would receive a red label and diesel vehicles made before 2007 would receive an orange rating.

In 2008 Berlin closed its city center off to all red-labeled cars – around 100,000 vehicles. Former Mayor Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón, of the conservative Popular Party (PP), had announced he would limit the circulation of vehicles that failed to receive even a red rating from 2010, but the plan never came into force.

Madrid has been exceeding the NO2 threshold set by the European Union since the creation of the monitoring system in 2010. Besides the serious health issues raised, the city could also face a hefty fine from Brussels if it fails to address the problem.

Cars subject to the 70km/h speed restrictions on a Madrid highway

In the interview, Sabanés also announced that City Hall was considering plans to extend public bike rental schemes in the city beyond the current BiciMad service, which she said was coming up short, as well as introducing parking meters to areas outside the M-30 beltway.

Plans are also afoot to pedestrianize more parts of the city center, she said. By 2017 only vehicles belonging to local residents will be able to enter secondary roads in the heart of the capital with the Sol, Palacio, Chueca and Malasaña neighborhoods set to join the Cortes, Las Letras and Embajadores districts in being closed off to traffic.

The city recently approved stringent new anti-pollution rules, set to go into force on February 1, that could see all vehicles banned from entering the downtown area on days of persisting and acute air pollution.

Residents of the Spanish capital are already familiar with the effects of the air-improvement plan after drivers were instructed to observe 70km/h speed limits on the M-30 and other access roads on several occasions last fall. Additionally, parking in downtown metered areas was banned altogether for a couple of days – with exceptions made for delivery trucks, ambulances, taxis and local residents with parking permits.

English version by Nick Funnell.

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