New traffic restrictions, pedestrian and bike plans, anger historic district business owners

Jul 29, 2016 | 47 comments

Dozens of business owners reacted angrily Thursday to city plans to impose motor vehicle speed and access restrictions to parts of the historic district. The complaints were voiced at a meeting in which city officials unveiled details of a new mobility plan to integrate the tram into El Centro.

A business owners criticizes El Centro traffic changes. (El Tiempo)

Business owner criticizes new El Centro plan. (El Tiempo)

The plan includes restrictions on speeds, including a maximum of 10 kph, on some streets, and complete pedestrianization of other streets. “The changes are part of the overall plan to improve livability in Centro and to encourage alternate forms of transportation, including biking and walking,” said Jaime Guzman, director of the Cuenca Transportation Department.

Business owners in the meeting said the new plan would drive away customers who depend on their cars to get to El Centro. “Who will come here if the speed limit is 10 kph, and who will come if they can’t even drive on the streets? asked Gran Colombia tienda owner Ivan Rios.

Another business owner said he was not informed about the changes until he arrived at the meeting. “We are tired of the authorities telling us at the last minute about the changes they are making,” said Fernando Ordoñez. “They did not include us the process where these changes were made.”

Guzman disputed the claim. “These plans have been discussed for years and have been included in planning documents for everyone to see,” he said. He added that minor changes can still be made but that requirements for the tram cannot change.

“I understand that there will be some discomfort as we adjust to the new rules but ultimately it benefits everyone, including businesses,” hen added.

Transportation department consultant Catalina Ormaza said the changes are intended to benefit the entire public, not just parts of it. “We are creating a continuous network for pedestrians, cyclists, as well as private and public vehicles. El Centro streets will no longer be just for cars,” she said, adding, “Most of these changes are technical requirements for operations of the tranvía and are non-negotiable.”

In addition to the 10 kph limit, speed will be limited to 20 kph and 30 kph on other streets parallel to, or crossing, the tram lines. Only residents and emergency and public services will be allowed to drive on Calles Gran Colombia and Mariscal Lamar.

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