When Madrid’s new administration came to power this past May, it seemed European city car bans were in peril. It’s become somewhat of a trend to ban cars from major city centers in Europe, but the city’s new government promised to scrap the law that had seen almost all private cars disappear from inner Madrid—not just from side streets, but from major roads, too.
As it turns out, the measure isn’t as popular as politicians supposed. Now, after a whirlwind of protest, they’re backpedaling. Madrid City Hall is pausing its plans to repeal the law, and it’s likely they’ll be abandoned for good.
This development is arguably significant far beyond Madrid’s boundaries. When the city’s repeal of the ban was announced, some saw it as a possible the first domino in a chain of anti-green backlashes that would see car bans start to collapse across Europe. Less than two months later, however, the repeal’s public and legal rejection has actually shown the opposite: that there is widespread support for green urban policies even when the political pendulum swings right. In fact, 60,000 protests marched on the streets of Madrid to protest against the proposal—something that has previously never happened so soon in the term of any Madrid mayor. With the car ban looking safer than ever, it seems the pedestrians of European cities can breathe a sigh of relief—one that doesn’t include exhaust fumes from cars.