Adiós cycle paths and environmental zones in Spain

by Lorraine Williamson
cycle paths

MADRID – Little by little, Spain has become more bicycle-friendly in recent years. Cycle paths were constructed and environmental zones were created, particularly in cities. However, with the overwhelming election victory of the right, this now seems to be changing. 

Moreover, millions of euros in European funds are also at stake now that the brand new right-wing municipal councils, often created through a collaboration between PP and Vox, are starting to abolish cycle paths and environmental zones. 

Elche dismantles three main cycle routes 

After the May 28 local elections, Elche (Alicante) was the first city to announce this move. Here a new municipal council took office under the leadership of the PP. They are now dismantling the three main cycle routes in the city. Moreover, the environmental zone must also suffer as this would “infringe” on the free circulation of cars. The former alderman for Mobility, Esther Díez, warns of the “economic impact” that these decisions will have, quite apart from the ideological dimension. 

Not so long ago, Elche received approval from the Ministry of Transport to gain access to European subsidies (Next Generation funds) worth €2.4 million. Money that was intended for, among other things, the improvement of cycle paths and the installation of more environmental zones. 

Also see: “Irresponsible tampering” in response to new bike path in Spain 

The new municipality has now decided to remove part of one of the cycle paths that were built with these funds “as soon as possible”. Díez calls the decision “insane”. It would destroy the connectivity of the infrastructure, the money would have to be paid back, and on top of that the municipality can expect a hefty fine. Furthermore, public money will also be needed for the dismantling. 

Cogesa Expats


The same is happening in Valladolid. On Monday, the brand new PP mayor announced that he would abolish the mobility regulation. This law has led to emission-free roads in the city centre. However, according to the mayor, the centre is stuck and chaotic due to the arrangement. Therefore, that is why cycle paths and bus and taxi lanes will be removed. 

“Political vindictiveness and technical ignorance” 

“This is a decision that no, I repeat, no mobility expert would make given the very positive results that have been achieved. It can only be understood from political vindictiveness and technical ignorance. It is a bad decision that goes against everything that is necessary Darío S., mobility engineer and geographer at the University of Valladolid, lamented on Twitter. This decision could lead to the loss of €483 million for the city. 


Gijón has also taken decisions that go against the interests of the environment. The new mayor Carmen Moriyón, of Foro Asturias, was able to take office after an agreement with Vox. She immediately announced that one of her first measures is that cars will drive through the city again “without any kind of environmental label”. 

The European Union has allocated significant funds to help cities transition to sustainable mobility and adapt to the impacts of climate change. By removing cycle paths and scaling back green mobility, cities such as Elche, Valladolid and Gijón risk losing this financial support. 

“Frustrating and worrying” 

For Díez, this conservative and climate-denying wave is as “frustrating as it is worrying”. Steps backward are being taken – she says – at a “key moment” in the fight against climate change and in adapting cities to green capitalism. “We are going back to the 20th century when we should be accelerating the transformations,” she laments. 

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