Luis Vélez: “Valladolid wants to be a friendly, liveable city where we can enjoy good air quality”

We interviewedLuis Vélez, Councillor for Mobility and Urban Space of Valladolid City Council, a city that has made a strong commitment to sustainable mobility.

Last year the Valladolid Green City project won the award of the Ministry of Ecological Transition during the European Mobility Week. What kind of city does Valladolid dream of in terms of mobility?

Valladolid is already a city with a high quality of life, it is not a dream, it is reality, but certainly more should be aspired to.

Queremos una ciudad amable, habitable, en la que podamos disfrutar de una buena calidad del aire, primando la salud por encima de todo. Una ciudad en la que la mayor parte de los desplazamientos se puedan hacer a pie, en bicicleta o en transporte público. Una ciudad en la que vecinos y visitantes se sientan a gusto en sus calles y plazas, y nos sintamos orgullosos de la ciudad que tenemos.

¿Cuáles son los retos en términos de movilidad sostenible para Valladolid?

Continue to promote active mobility. The pedestrian is at the center of our policy and therefore public space must be reclaimed for the benefit of the pedestrian, in order to achieve a fairer balance in the distribution of the available space. The pedestrian zones implemented in recent years have produced wonderful results, being satisfactory for pedestrians as well as for merchants and hoteliers. It is also very important to continue promoting the use of bicycles for commuting, as it is a very comfortable city to do so, and the measures that are being taken will allow bicycle use to grow. Public transport is also a key axis that we are promoting. Offering a higher quality, better service and more attractive public transport, that’s why important investments and decisions are being made to favor it.

What balance have you made so far of the reduction of motorized traffic to 30 km/h?

The balance is very positive. The DGT’s decision in this regard was highly applauded by the municipalities. In fact, the cities claimed a homogeneous standard for the whole country from the DGT. The motto of the DGT campaign “At 30 there is more life” could not be more true. Data show it. In 2021, the number of accidents in the city of Valladolid has been significantly reduced. And even more important, there have been 0 road traffic fatalities. This is certainly a goal that we must maintain, the reduction of road traffic accidents, and that these have less serious injuries. For this reason, of course, the balance we make is very positive.

Do you think Europe’s big cities are doing the necessary to reduce pollution or is it all just Greenwashing?

Se puede hacer más sin ninguna duda, y debemos hacer más por reducir los niveles de contaminación. No solo porque la normativa europea y española cada vez nos obligan a tomar más medidas en este sentido, sino también sobre todo porque la salud de nuestros ciudadanos debe primar por encima de todo en las decisiones que se toman desde las instituciones. Ahora, después de esta crisis sanitaria que nos está tocando vivir en los últimos años debido a la pandemia de la COVID 19, se valora aún más la salud por encima de cualquier otra cosa, y sin ninguna duda la contaminación atmosférica provoca miles de muertes al año en el mundo que debemos ser capaces de atajarlas.

In February, it was announced that Valladolid would receive up to 18 million euros for projects linked to sustainable mobility. How did the City Council receive the news?

With great enthusiasm and responsibility. We had been working on these projects for months, in the hope and confidence to obtain European funds that would allow us to deepen the modal change in the city and evolve towards a more modern and sustainable city. European funds have been secured to finance urban lifts in the city, vertical mobility projects that will improve the daily life of thousands of Valladolid residents. These grants will also allow us to implement the new public bicycle system and a wide network of secure bicycle parking facilities. And with them we will also be able to implement the Low Emissions Zone, something that cities with more than 50,000 inhabitants are obliged to by the Climate Change Law.

Among the actions planned within the funds received is the implementation of secure bicycle parking facilities throughout the city. How important do you think this measure is to encourage the use of bicycles in cities?

All these measures help to promote cycling. And there is no doubt, the implementation of a secure bicycle parking network will also do so. It will allow residents who do not have space at home to store their bicycles, as well as those who wish to keep them more secure, to prevent theft or damage. They are systems that already work well in other cities and that we can finally count on in the city of Valladolid.

Another of the bodies that they intend to set up is the Control Center for comprehensive management of sustainable mobility. What functions does this center plan to perform?

The aim is to adapt the city to new mobility technologies, to be able to have all the tools to make decisions, to know the data in real time, to be able to analyse them and decide with more objective data.

Should we aim for car-free cities?

Increasingly car-free and less polluting. Cars are also necessary, but we must make more rational use of them. Not only is it necessary to move towards less polluting vehicles, it is also essential to move towards more car sharing and other modes of transport. We have a problem of limiting public space, and therefore we must make more responsible use of commuting by private vehicle.

A few years ago, cities faced a certain amount of rejection when making decisions such as pedestrianising streets or removing road sections in favour of cycling. Do you think this has changed? Have you ever faced neighbourhood resistance in the field of sustainable mobility?

There is a growing public awareness of this issue. There is increasing support, complicity and necessity to make these decisions. But it is true that there is still resistance, and it is the same in almost all cities. The counter-arguments are repeated, as are the positive results when such decisions are made to promote pedestrian and cycling infrastructure. In Valladolid we have tried to take decisions through dialogue, education and participation, and perhaps for this reason we have found less rejection of the measures taken.

How do you think private companies should contribute to promoting more sustainable mobility modes?

Companies are key role, as is public-private collaboration in changing the mobility model towards more sustainable mobility. Company awareness of the contribution they can make to cities in improving air quality and mobility is very important. Of course, encouraging the own workers to move more sustainable, offering safety and quality commuting. Much progress has been made, but much remains to be done.

Cities changed many mobility dynamics as a result of the pandemic. Did Valladolid make any significant changes that are here to stay?

Si, de hecho todas las medidas enmarcadas en el Valladolid Ciudad Verde que fue premiado el año pasado por el Ministerio de Transportes y el Ministerio de Transición Ecológica, han venido para quedarse, para mantenerse y mejorar la calidad de vida de la ciudad. Muchas de estas medidas ya estaban previstas anteriormente, e incluso aprobadas en diferentes planes, tanto en el PGOU como en el Plan de Movilidad y otros documentos oficiales del Ayuntamiento, pero no se habían puesto en marcha. La pandemia nos permitió darle un impulso a estas medidas que potenciaban una movilidad más sostenible en la ciudad.

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