¿Pedestrian zones?

By Margaret L.

April 12, 2020

I once thought it was strange to walk out of an MU building and nearly collide with a truck on a sidewalk. Like, what are you doing here MU Maintenance? How did you even get here? This is a sidewalk! Cars do not belong here! Now that I’m in Spain, though, I wouldn’t think twice about such an occurrence.

The lines between pedestrian trafficked areas and automotive trafficked areas is extraordinarily blurred in Salamanca, Spain. Even the places you’d imagine are solely pedestrian, full of stone benches and potted plants sporadically placed along the path, like those of Columbia’s own Lowry Mall, with no clear side designated for larger vehicles, can often be seen being driven on. They bob and weave through narrow and winding paths that an American would never dare drive through. We would see these obstacles in the streets as “roadblocks,” expressly designed to deter vehicles and find another road to go down. Here, even delivery trucks power through and weave around masses of pedestrians without concern.

I think they’re all expert drivers around here, and that’s why they can do that. Or perhaps they’re expert drivers because they have to do that? Regardless, you should see the 90° turns they have to make. The turns between two streets are at times not even the slightest bit curved. It’s one street like this __ and one like this | that join at the edges. Did I mention that these streets are one way and one lane? Truly impressive that they get around the corner.

There are so many one-way streets in Spain, and they’re all narrow like that. Also, because the cities were designed long before vehicular transport, the streets are radial instead of gridded like we’re used to. None of them run parallel to one another. Finding your way in a car would be a nightmare if you hadn’t grown up doing it. At least you can walk the wrong way down a one-way if it’s the most direct path to where you want to go.

Nothing is specifically designated to be just for cars or just for pedestrians. Except for ramps down to parking garages. I did see a sign that said foot traffic is not allowed. I later saw someone walk down it without a care in the world though, so who knows…

Moral of the story: watch your step. Nowhere is safe. Not even Plaza Mayor. I’ve seen cars there too. And I’ve run into a stone bench with my shins while texting and walking. Live and learn. Watch where you walk in Spain.

Learn more about this blogger’s study abroad program: IES Abroad: Advanced Spanish Immersion in Salamanca