Ramón Ledesma, lawyer and current adviser at PONS Seguridad Vial (Road safety), has dedicated part of his professional career to studying mobility issues in cities and strategies to solve them. Among the positions that he has recently taken up is the General Subdirectorate of Regulation and Resources of the DGT (highway patrol management). This is the place from which he implemented the penalty points on the driving licence system in Spain. This has contributed to a great decrease in the number of fatalities in the Spanish roads. He knows very closely the experience of pedestrianization in Pontevedra, an initiative which is considered a milestone and whose philosophy is spreading the word about this model worldwide.
-You have been closely acquainted with the pedestrianization experience which took place in Pontevedra. What makes it different from the ones in other cities?
-I think there are two key factors to explain the uniqueness of what has happened in Pontevedra. The first is that the decision to implement a model of these characteristics corresponds to a political strategy that has been supported by the highest level of municipal responsibility and executed in a coordinated manner. All the councils act at the same time to give the city back to the pedestrians. The second factor is that it is a transversal project, where the human point of view predominates. The goal was to return the public space to the citizens who had lost it to the benefit of the vehicles. In other places, decisions are made on a case-by-case basis, but there is no strategic vision that is carried out from high above. In the case of Pontevedra, in addition, this decision has been politically profitable because the mayor still remains in his post after many years.
-Given your experience as an adviser in other countries, do you consider that the Pontevedra model is also a viable one in other larger cities?
-It is a fully exportable model. Pontevedra is not a small city, it has about 70,000 inhabitants, and if the same model is applied to larger cities what will have to be done is to create small “Pontevedra neighborhoods” within the same city. Traffic must be concentrated on the big avenues of cities, so that 80% of the streets are almost free of traffic. In Pontevedra has been achieved so that vehicles arriving from outside of the city are directed to the downtown parking lots and if they do not park there, they are practically expelled from the city and have to re-enter.
-Can it be said that other cities will follow suit regarding this model of pedestrianization in spite of strong opposition in other places?
-No doubt, this model is becoming more prevalent. In the first decades in which the cars appeared, cities were transformed to give them space but now there is an opposite movement and the tendency is to follow this kind of model in the city centers. Most definetely, people will follow suit and the implementation time will depend on the political momentum and also on the pressure of their citizens. In this sense, Pontevedra leads the way and that is why from PONS we have dedicated a book to analyzing what Pontevedra is all about regarding pedestrianization.