Images: Alex García
Traffic in much of the Eixample has become an everyday insanity, traders are already up to their noses of losing customers weekend after weekend, the waste barricades draw a pitiful picture of the square, many people are already fed up with the campsite of the University Square…
The student protest that began on 30 October against the state’s response to the procés appears to have already been engrossed. More than 200 shops remain planted. What is not so clear is how many people sleep inside, especially these rainy days. Meanwhile, the City Council and the Generalitat look the other way. One is responsible for mobility and urban space, and the other is responsible for public order. But, as it has been used to happen in these situations for a few years, both administrations prefer to wait for the other to take the initiative and act first.
“Five nights sleeping with Orfidal and Lexatin because these people were given to do concerts in front of my balcony.” Testimony collected yesterday in the square and its surroundings. Another: “I understand that people hold protests, but what do we gain by lengthening this so many days. The delivery man who brings me what I buy online calls me and says he’s waiting for me in the corner or going to the office… so we’re going to get something?”
In one of the marquees of the University round near the square, in the middle of the morning, Josep, newcomer from Mataró on an intercity bus, tried to take the V13 towards Sant Gervasi. Several TMB signs indicated that the routes have been modified in this area. He doesn’t see it clearly. “I think I have to go to the rambla Catalunya…. he explained; aaah, no, I think no, to the Gran Via, in front of the Universitat – the llobregat sense is open -, what a mess”. Then it started to rain.
Collision of Rights
There are people who understand the protest but not to extend it indefinitely.
Traffic cuts on Gran Via, the Ronda Universitat and Pelai Street cause traffic jams in much of the Eixample at all hours have more than one thousand people every day affected in their daily mobility. The first avenue supports circulation of more than 50,000 vehicles. According to TMB (Metropolitan Transport), the nine urban lines forced to alter their routes due to campers add together more than 120,000 users and many of them pass through the critical enclave. The figure is higher if travelers are added from intercity routes with terminals in this area.
“They are ruining a few pivotal days of the trading season, the days when the cold comes a lot of people suddenly buy blankets and warm clothes,” explained a merchant in the square. The vast majority of those affected have preferred to remain anonymous. The atmosphere is very crunchy. “Yes, we had to hang a ‘loo only for customers’ sign because the toilet was embossed all the time, disgusting! but the worst thing is when you see the people, the tourists and also the Barcelonans, who look at the terrace and the waste barricades, over and over again, deliberating… and then they decide to go to another place.”
Barcelona Oberta, an entity that brings together the main shopping axes of the city center, asked the City Council yesterday to evict the University campsite as soon as possible. “We demand the immediate return of public order,” was said in a statement. Traders thus denounce the passivity of the government of Mayor Ada Colau. The organization defends the right to manifest itself, but not to perpetuate an action that is affecting “the coexistence between citizens, the right to be able to develop the day to day with normality and the functioning of sectors where many Barcelonans earn a living.” As another trader who also prefers not to give his name said, “in the end you see a girl peeing on a house portal and what it produces you is very sad”.
Lost in the square
Bus diversions disorient users, especially the oldest. Maria, an old lady, was waiting for the H16 at the Sant Antoni round stop with Goya Square. “I’ve met some friends at the Forum,” she explained as she tried to find out the detour on the map stuck on the screen. And as she fails to clear up her anger increases. “This street goes the other way, it can’t be…,” she continued. No, no…” At that moment, suddenly, the rain shrank and, with her face unhooked, she said she was going home.
At the stop next door, Claudia and Cristina, students of an average degree of commercial activities in a center at the street Pelayo, rested between class and class. “We always go to the square, but now we can’t,” remarked the first. I think it’s fine to protest,” the second one said, “but they have to bear in mind that depending on what they bother others, they can be there, we should also be able to stay.”
Traffic has become unbearable in Aribau. The usual flow is added to the deviation of the Gran Via. And the turn to Consell de Cent becomes a stopper, especially when articulated buses do. Nuria, neighbor of this enclave, complained that when he has been opening the windows for days, a special dust enters. “It’s the pollution,” she said, convinced. Downstairs, the three car lanes jammed continuously. The only one that went well is that of the bikes, with little circulation because the weather did not accompany. A little further up, in Valencia, three-quarters of the same thing occurred. And, on the descent, Balmes didn’t give up any more. All bottled up.
It’s hard to cross the center, it can be twenty minutes more than usual,” explained Manel, a taxi driver sensitive to the claim of the camped but critical of the protests that affect everyone, including those who think like demonstrators. “Travellers are resigned,” he continued, “but they look uneasy when we do not advance. yesterday a lady didn’t stop uttering insults in a mobile conversation.”
The City Hall estimates that the different incidences of these last weeks, which are very variable, with sudden cuts in addition to the permanent of the Gran Via at the height of the Universitat, especially in the afternoon, have caused an increase in traffic in Entenca 29%, in Valencia of 17%, in the Ronda de Dalt, at the height of the Parque de la Oreneta, 11% and the Litoral, as it passed through Montjuc, of 7%. On the contrary, the Diagonal, in Torre Melina, has cut it between 28% and 45%; in Tarragona between 64% and 70% and on Gran Via, on its way through Vilamarí, 29%. 95% of TMB bus lines have been affected at some point.
Christmas, in danger
Camping also overshadows Christmas celebrations. A few merchants in the square and in Pelayo Street reached an agreement with the Tot Raval Foundation to illuminate the University, to hang garlands made in recent years in a program of social integration. They are ornaments inspired by various photo collections that reflect the cultural diversity of the Raval. The problem is that the number of businesses of Universitat square is not enough to finance the idea and that some of the sponsors they had found now say that they do not want to pay anything, that the square has a pitiful appearance, that it is not worth decorating the streets.
It would be the first Christmas that the square is decorated. In addition, Pelayo’s lights are also in danger. Here, for safety reasons, the installation of the garlands has not yet begun. The truth is, that in this central corner the atmosphere is not Christmas’ like. Even the historic lottery administration El Gato Negro is seeing sales falling. “People call us and ask if it’s possible to get here,” they mourn to the otherside of the counter, “and then they don’t come”. People come less and less to the center. This doesn’t do the Christmas spirit any good. And we live on that, from the illusion of the people; how long they will let this continue?”