Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Across The Green Pastures Of Madrid

Sunday saw what remains of an old tradition in Madrid; as a herd of about 1000 sheep made their way across the centre of the city following the route of a “cañada real”, one of the routes created centuries ago and which remain open to all those moving their livestock from one part of the country to another. On their way into the city the sheep had to negotiate the chaotic walkways of the massive construction project burying part of the M-30, the inner ring road.

The spectacle attracted huge crowds, now that not so many Madrileños have such close connections with the villages where their parents came from. It also reportedly collapsed traffic in the city, although recently I’ve come to the conclusion that it is pedestrians that are at the heart of Madrid’s traffic problems. The reason I have reached such a startling conclusion has been the activities of the agentes de movilidad (mobility agents), a uniformed force created supposedly to improve traffic flow in the city. How do they do this? From my experience their main activity is to reduce the amount of time that pedestrians have to cross the road; hence my conclusion that those who choose to walk are clearly the main obstacle to free flowing traffic. It’s not as if Madrid drivers need much encouragement to indulge in the ancient tradition of “saltando el semáforo” (jumping the lights), I’ve had people almost driving over my feet as they accelerate in the face of a traffic light that has just changed to red.

So there you go, if we could only get rid of the sheep and the pedestrians, the traffic problem goes away. Forget all that nonsense about it it having something to do with the number of cars on the road.

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