Since 1999 Miguel Anxo Fernández Lores has been the Mayor of the Pontevedra City, a small town in the north of Spain of about 80,000 inhabitants. Pontevedra City has been referred to by the international press as a miracle and has been awarded numerous international prizes. When Mr Fernández Lores took office for the first time, about 14,000 cars passed daily by his office downtown; most of the town’s public spaces were taken by cars; pollution and traffic deaths and injuries were on the rise; and people had started moving away from the city center which had become unpleasant, congested, and dangerous.
After analyzing a variety of possible solutions, Mayor Fernandez Lores and his team decided to pedestrianize most of the town, precisely some 300,000 square metres. He then prohibited cars to cross the city centre and park on the street. Around the newly pedestrianized area, he established free underground parking; replaced traffic lights with roundabouts; lowered speed limits to 30 km/h and introduced other traffic calming measures. The results have brought Pontevedra City under the international spotlight: zero road traffic deaths since 2009, a 70 % reduction of CO2 emissions; a 30% increase of business revenues, reduced criminality, 12,000 new inhabitants, and a much more physically-active population.
Today nearly three-quarters of what used to be car journeys are made on foot or bicycle and 80% percent of children aged 6-12 years walk alone to school every morning. The city also developed the Metrominuto: a metro-style map indicating walking routes and times from one place to another complemented by sign posts in the streets with additional useful information for pedestrians. Pontevedra City’s urban model has been awarded several prizes, including in 2014 the UN-Habitat and Dubai Municipality’s Dubai International Award for Best Practices to Improve the Living Environment and in 2015 the Center for Active Design award, among others.