Pontevedra: a city model focus on people

Pontevedra is a city with history, its beginnings go back to the ancient era. It is said that the city was founded by Teucro, one of the heroes of the Trojan War. This allow us to know how important Pontevedra is according to history and the importance that already have in the actual world and the importance that is going to have in the future.
Pontevedra’s urbanism is in some way conditioned by the physical conditions of their territory, so the original urban planning of the city is adapted to this situation, being the “Rias Baixas” an important part of this, the city is planed around one of them.
These headlines allow us to know a bit more about this ancient city with a pioneer urbanism model and how as a millennial city it reinvents itself with citizens as protagonists and urbanism and technology as allies.


Pontevedra have an experience of 14 years where they have been trying to create a deep improvement of the urban environment and a high urban quality in all its facets. Thus they focus in the following objectives.

-Drastically reduce air, noise and water pollution
-Achieve an inclusive city in which social class, physical or disability barriers, by age, sex or any other diversity are mitigated or eliminated.
-Eliminate the dangers of traffic and enhancing non-motorized mobility, reversing priorities and placing foot-travel as a central element of urban mobility.
-Convert urban public spaces, the city, into a center of socialization a city of integrated plural uses
-Promote the autonomy of children and their integration into urban life
This project shows that more than two-thirds of the trips are made by foot or on bicycles, physical barriers for wheelchairs and children’s cars have disappeared, the whole city has a top speed of 30 km / h;
Pontevedra has become in recent years in a model for many cities that look at how in just 15 years more than 70% of urban displacements are done by foot or by bicycle.
C02 emissions in the urban centre have been reduced by 88%, besides liquid wastes that were returned to nature without purification have been eliminated by 70%.
And the danger of traffic has been drastically reduced, and there are no deaths or serious injuries. In addition, public spaces and green areas, as well as pedestrian and bicycle paths adding the recovery and rehabilitation of the Historic Center and other degraded urban areas have been increased
As a result of this different performances the city of Pontevedra received in 2015 the UN Habitat Award in Dubai, which recognizes the best practices in cities throughout the world that seek to improve people’s lives.
In this sense, the work of Pontevedra has been recognized in terms of innovation, urban quality and social inclusion within its model city. Its urban planning model focus in 7 main points:

1. In 1999 traffic was closed in the city centre and since then it has managed to reduce vehicle pollution in the urban area by 66%,

2. Besides it has reduced the maximum speed to 30 km / h to achieve a calm and safe circulation

3. In 14 years 40 km of footpaths and cycling paths have been created near the rivers.

4. Eradication of wastewater discharges in rivers

5. The recognition of Its urban model as a transferable model, since it can be perfectly executed in other municipalities without no obstacle.

6. It has been constituted as an inclusive social city that allows people with some physical disability to move smoothly throughout the city

7. Pontevedra has been considered a healthy city by the increase of green areas, places to practice sport, as well as its fluvial beach.
As said Daniel Macenlle said in the conference in Dubai:

“Cities can be transformed into friendly, ecological, sustainable, safe, comfortable, and inclusive places in a relatively short period of time”

Pontevedra is the perfect example about how is possible to create a “city model” focusing on people and how to make the city more sustainable without forget that the people who live in the city is as important as this idea.

Words from the the major of Pontevedra, Miguel Anxo Fernández Lores:

“Here there is a deep philosophy that is to know what is important in cities and for us this are the citizens, it is to build a city for people; There are others that are made for cars, for noise but we believe that public space has to be the continuity of your home and from there you start to make decisions”

At the beginning this ideas was not the most popular one, due to the fact that citizens especially in the case of local shops were worried for their commerce. They thought that the prohibition of cars in the city centre would have a negative impactive in their sales.
Nevertheless this is far from reality, the local commerce are doing better and even some of them are asking for more pedestrian zones. People have learnt and see how their quality of life have improved with this revolutionary urban planning model, even if at the beginning they were not enthusiastic about this Municipal General Town Planning Plan. Nowadays more and more people are getting engaged with this project that helps to improve their quality of life.

Besides Pontevedra was awarded in 2013 with the INTERMODES price for creating the first European pedestrian map: “El Metrominuto”, that shows the result of a policy of years prioritizing pedestrian mobility.
With this project Pontevedra face its self as a pioneer city in urban planning focus in pedestrian mobility

Words of Pontevedra’s Mayor Miguel Anxo Fernández Lores

“In Pontevedra a revolution was made, not only for reserving a special place for pedestrians in mobility plans, but also because it integrates the pedestrian network into the city’s transport plans”




Citizens have several public parkings outside the city centre where they can leave their cars and
accede walking to the city what is more comfortable, but even with that people who live in the outskirts of Pontevedra or even in near villages are still struggling with this issue. They say that these parking are not enough and they say that even some of them are not the safest places to leave your car.

Thus in the town hall of Pontevedra they are trying to adapt and modulate its strategy to be able to extend its model to the edge and the periphery and to achieve a balanced territorial development through the next initiative and projects:

-Extension and adaptation of the people-centered urban transformation model: extending it to the peripheral neighbourhoods and the peripheral crown of medium density that surrounds the compact city, they try to create a city better connected with its peri-urban environment, to achieve more friendly, comfortable, safe and accessible urban spaces and a high urban quality that meet the standards reached in the most central grid of the city.
-Compromise with a natural and cultural heritage and commitment with climate change
-To achieve an economic and social cohesion

And as we explain before the town hall is taking into account the “DUSI strategy” based in Model Urban Pontevedra that has as main challenge to deepen the model of urban transformation of Pontevedra focused on people, continuing, reinforcing and adapting its model not only in the urban centre but also in urban spaces of the edge and the urban peripheral crown that surrounds. Pontevedra is still really involved in sustainable urban planning and wants to become in a city model.

From a urbanism and planning point of view creating a urban planning like this it is not easy at all, especially if we consider how in the actual world and particularly in Spain people centers their displacements in the use of car. This is what makes Pontevedra’s urban planning so special and innovative, being a city focus on the safety of their citizens and in achieve a Urban sustainable development strategy.

As a special connotation Pontevedra is the perfect example about how the traditional urban planning is leading its place to the new “urban strategic management” explained by François Ascher. This new method comes up as a response to the uncertainty of the current situation; this method tries to take positive advantage of all kinds of events and developments related to strategic objectives and revolutionizes the old chronology used by traditional urban planning.

As a final conclusion Pontevedra is the perfect example about how cities can change and about how urban planning can focus their planning on people, at the end we are going to be the ones living there.
Pontevedra is leading the new urban planning of the future, why don’t we take their example and try to make our cities more sustainable and oriented to citizens?


Lara Sastre-Estévez de la Torre


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Estrategia de Desarrollo Urbano Sostenible e integrado de Pontevedra. (2016). 1st ed. [ebook] Pontevedra. Available at: http://www.pontevedra.gal/web2015/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/URBAN_Mais-Modelo-Pontevedra.pdf [Accessed 26 Jan. 2017].

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Pontevedra Viva. (2017). Dubái ‘corona’ el modelo urbano de Pontevedra con el premio ONU-Hábitat – Pontevedra Viva. [online] Available at: http://pontevedraviva.com/xeral/18165/dubai-coroa-modelo-urbano-pontevedra-premio-onu-habitat/?lang=es [Accessed 26 Jan. 2017].

Twenergy.com. (2017). Pontevedra recibe el premio ONU Habitat por su modelo urbano peatonal – Twenergy. [online] Available at: https://twenergy.com/a/pontevedra-recibe-el-premio-onu-habitat-por-su-modelo-urbano-peatonal-1639 [Accessed 27 Jan. 2017].

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