Alfonso Gil Ibernón, mobility councilor of the Bilbao city council explains that cities mutated before the covid. Since 2000, the space that was given to the car for decades has been questioned. “Everything that produces the combustion of gasoline is harmful: beyond polluting, traffic noise generates heart disease and accelerates diseases such as Alzheimer’s because it does not allow rest.”
In June 2018, 87% of the streets of Bilbao were circulating at that speed. Today 30 kilometers per hour is the limit of the entire city. That is why they have received the European Union award for the best mobility, for anticipating the regulations of the General Directorate of Traffic. “The noise has dropped 2 decibels. Accidents 28%, fines for jumping a red light, 43%. The revolution is on. It is silent, but the citizen will no longer swallow noise, smoke and accidents, ”he declared to EL PAÍS.
Since May 11 of this year, in Spain it is mandatory that on one-way urban roads circulate at a maximum speed of 30 kilometers per hour. It was promoted by the General Directorate of Traffic (DGT). And there are exceptions such as roads where cyclists, cars and pedestrians coexist —that is, streets where the road is not distinguished from the sidewalk. There the speed is reduced even more. In Plasencia, for example, the entire old town has a maximum speed of 20 kilometers per hour. That is to say, compatible with the speed of the bicycle and little more than double that reached when traveling on foot.
Bilbao was the first city in the world with more than 300,000 inhabitants that decided to limit the speed of movement of vehicles to 30. It did so in all its streets, whether they have one or two lanes and one or two directions. Gil explains it, who came to politics very young, at the age of 12, before, of course, becoming a lawyer: “I am the fourth of five and my brothers were very left-wing, and very opposed to ETA, let’s be clear.” He has been escorted for many years, even without having a public position. And he explains that he never understood politics as a profession but as a vocation. His vocation to improve life together today focuses on mobility because in 2015, when the Socialists came to the government, it seemed essential to change how the people of Bilbao were moving. “A well-resolved mobility makes the city healthier and more competitive,” he says. That is why he describes it as a new monumentality: “There will be as many people who come to see the Guggenheim as to check the mobility of the city.”
But there is more. It is not only the shop window that matters, the city for visitors: “A person who stays at home is sedentary. If we solve mobility well, we will go to the doctor less. The city will be more advanced. A 30th street is more powerful than a 50th street. Here we associate shopping with a pleasant time. We have to make local businesses flourish on 30th streets ”. The councilor defends that cities must take care of the logistics of people and goods “it makes no sense for the pharmacy to replenish six times a day. That is why he believes that City 30 is also the city of fifteen minutes: “I want to recover for my grandchildren: to walk to school. We have gone backwards. We have taken our children to school by car thinking that this was comfort and progress. A barbarous mistake: the child in the street acquires a vital experience for his development ”.
Gil explains that he moves around Bilbao by electric bicycle: “We have the public bicycle system with the most uses in Europe. The pandemic has caused all manufacturers to break stocks. Bicycles are here to stay ”, he says.
What to do to get people to leave the car? “A comfortable public transport system. People in Spain believe that using public transport is poor. But poor is not having public transport. Speed in the city is a pact. Good urban life, civility, our health and our coexistence are at stake ”.