Several countries, including the UK, Norway, Denmark and Iceland, have announced plans to eliminate ICE vehicles, and a few cities are proposing to ban them from city centers. Paris and Amsterdam have ambitious plans to banish dinosaur burners by 2030. Obviously, such plans have opponents, and they aren’t likely to become law without political battles.
Recent events in Madrid indicate that, for now, the tide is running in favor of limiting cars in city centers. In 2018, the Spanish capital banned all non-resident cars from the center. The only vehicles allowed in the central zone are cars belonging to residents, delivery vehicles, taxis and public transport.
In May, a new, more right-leaning city government was elected, and began dismantling the ban. Some saw the beginning of a brown backlash that would strike down proposed car bans across Europe. However, thousands protested the repeal, and finally a judge forced the city council to reinstate the ban.
Unlike the ICE bans proposed in Paris and Amsterdam, the Madrid measure isn’t aimed at gas-burning vehicles, but rather at reducing traffic in general (however, the city has long regulated emissions – most of the city’s taxis are hybrids, and a growing number are electric). However, as CityLab puts it, the popular opposition to the repeal of the ban indicates that there is “widespread support for green urban policies even when the political pendulum swings right.”
Repealing the car ban was a priority for Madrid’s newly elected mayor, and the new president of the Madrid region waxed nostalgic for traffic jams, saying they were part of the city’s character. However, at the end of June, when the city suspended fines for driving in the car-free zone, thousands took to the streets, and international media, including the New York Times, picked up the story.
Locals were especially incensed by amateur video footage that showed the city dismantling planters filled with flowers in order to reclaim the space for parking. Finally, a local court forced the city to reinstate the ban, saying that it was necessary “to improve the quality of the air that the citizens of Madrid breathe, which has a direct impact on health.”