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An interview with Pontevedra, winner of the first EU Urban Road Safety Award

29 June 2020

Miguel Anxo Fernández Lores, Mayor of the City of Pontevedra (Spain), discusses what winning the first EU Urban Road Safety Award means to the city.

What does winning the 1st EU Urban Road Safety Award mean to the city of Pontevedra?
Winning this award has allowed us to position Pontevedra as a friendly, safe, environmentally friendly city with a high quality of life. The award was of great importance to us because of the prestige associated with being recognised by the European Commission. 

We feared that the significance and relevance of the award might be lost in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and associated containment measures, but the opposite happened. The pandemic has led to a need for large public spaces, which are safe and comfortable enough to keep interpersonal distance. This in turn has led to many cities searching for role models to take inspiration from, and more people talking about sustainable mobility.

What has the reaction been among citizens and stakeholders to winning the award? 
The reaction has been very positive! Our intention was to organise an event for the public and our social partners, but COVID-19 confinement measures prevented us from doing so, just as they prevented the awards ceremony from taking place in Brussels (Belgium).

We were worried that confinement measures, together with the concern over the pandemic, would dilute both the impact of the prize and public reaction to it. However, this wasn’t the case, and the announcement gathered lots of attention in both local, regional and national media outlets, and on social media. 

Pontevedra’s social media networks were filled with a huge number of comments,  with citizens, institutional representatives, and civil society organisations all sharing their congratulations. We also received congratulations and thanks from all the municipal political groups. 

The City of Pontevedra has used a broad array of measures to increase road safety in the city. What has been the most effective measure used? 
All the measures work together and help to achieve the objective of reducing traffic accidents. Road education, vertical and horizontal signage, centralised traffic regulation, disciplinary measures, school roads, rules and regulations, reducing the speed limit to 30 km/h - all of these measures are useful and necessary.

What advice would you give to cities that are looking to follow in your footsteps and win the EU Urban Road Safety Award? 
Cities interested in following in our footsteps should think about making their city safe, about saving lives, about making it easier for children to move around the city autonomously, and about making life easier for the elderly and people with functional diversities. 

They should focus on making their city friendlier, more inclusive, and more cohesive, and should use improved and highly secure public spaces to achieve this. They should strive to reduce the unfair priority given to motorised transport over citizens’ use of the city and public spaces. Cities should consider the drastic reduction of air and noise pollution to be a just cause. 

In short, they should try to put the city and the citizens before the use and abuse of mobility, reversing the priority to reach "first the city, then motorised mobility". It takes courage and much energy to do this, but doing so will greatly improve the quality of life of the city and its inhabitants.