Obras faraónicas e innecesarias promovidas por un alcalde endiosado, el presupuesto de los próximos años soterrado, junto con los coches, bajo el Manzanares, un centro agonizante, poca imaginación e iniciativa por parte de la ciudadanía, contaminación, ausencia de carril bici y de cualquier otra cosa que huela a progreso sostenible... y todas esas cosas que hacen que esta ciudad caiga goleada ¡sí, goleada! frente a Barcelona en múltiples aspectos. Las verdades duelen, señores, y en boca de un juez imparcial, más.
Yo no lo habría dicho mejor que Graeme, así que, que hable él:
Friday, May 09, 2008
Madrid Versus Barcelona
No, this post is not about football. That’s probably just as well after what happened on Wednesday night. I have been meaning to write a post comparing Madrid to Barcelona ever since my visit to the latter city a few weeks ago. I have what I suppose might be a slightly romantic notion of Barcelona, which perhaps comes from being an occasional visitor rather than someone who lives there. I’ve always had the idea of it being a more imaginative, better administered city, than Madrid. Every time I go there it seems that something has been done to make the city more attractive and user friendly, and I compare this with Madrid where it has always seemed to me that making the city more attractive and easy to live in has never been high up on the list of municipal priorities.
In Barcelona I see more pedestrian areas, inner city cycle lanes, and the complete renovation and recovery of the beach area by the sea. The bicycle sharing scheme they have introduced seems to be a great success, much to the disappointment of those
whose gloomy vision of human nature demands that such schemes should fail. Then I think of Madrid with narrow traffic clogged streets where the remaining pavement is so thin that you and the bag you are carrying cannot share it. Those who ride a bike on the streets of Madrid do so because they need an adrenaline fix that they can only get from dodging murderous taxi drivers. The “beach” by the River Manzanares is still a dustbowl and will probably stay that way until two months before the next elections – they could at least plant some plastic palm trees to give it that desert look and feel. I know it’s not all so rosy, Barcelona has its protests over urban speculation and some things they do there are just disappointing. The imaginative extension of the Ramblas into the port area is completely marred by placing the most ordinary of chain-store, fast
food, multi screen shopping centres at the end of it; it’s already starting to look a bit tatty.
Is this as good as it gets? In reality, Madrid is not just behind Barcelona in terms of making the city more habitable. I’ve seen similar initiatives to those I’ve mentioned above in other smaller cities of Spain, and Madrid always seems to be the last place to adopt such ideas. I’ve reached the conclusion that the capital simply lacks the sense
of civic pride that Barcelona and other cities possess. If you look back over the past few years for significant projects or changes in the city the result is the infamous traffic tunnel under the river and four huge office blocks built as a result of the dodgy deal done over Real Madrid’s former training ground. That’s about it, I can’t think of anything really important that I’ve missed, and the biggest problem of all is that very few people in the city seem to care. The interests and priorities of the city administration are a reflection of that.
Much of the municipal budget for the next few years disappeared under the river with the traffic, and what can literally be described as “tunnel vision” seems to dominate thinking about what the city needs. Madrid has boomed economically in recent years, and the spread of the city means that almost everything is just reduced to how to navigate between the suburban home, the out of town shopping centre, and the office. A large part of the population rarely passes by the centre of the city and when they do they are often just driving underground. In other words, a significant part of the population cares little about what happens in the city provided that their key journeys are not interfered with in any way. Broach the subject with Madrid residents and many
will probably protest that they do care about their city, all I can say is that they hide it well. Perhaps my (undisguised) prejudices against those who run the city and the region affect my judgment, but I don’t think I have ever lived in a large city where there is so little evident interest in how the city evolves. Despite what some might think after reading this post, I’ve said all of this because I like Madrid; I just think it could be better.