Huge traffic jams mar Madrid car-free day
A car-free day to curb pollution in Madrid has been cursed by Spanish drivers who got stuck in traffic jams, described as the worst for months.
There was an 89% increase in traffic jams during the morning rush hour, the daily newspaper El Pais reported.
Thousands of commuters got stuck on the capital's approach roads. There were also jams in Barcelona and Zaragoza.
Cars were diverted away from city centres. But one Madrid official blamed car accidents for the traffic queues.
The car-free day ("dia sin coches" in Spanish) initiative was part of "European Mobility Week", an annual campaign by the EU to promote clean, safe and sustainable transport in cities.
In Barcelona the authorities reported 90,000 fewer cars on the streets - a 4.3% decrease compared with normal working days.
In central Madrid, hundreds of school students went on a bike ride through traffic-free city streets.
Greenpeace environmental activists painted symbols of pedestrians, bikes, buses and electric cars on a main road - Bravo Murillo.
But on Twitter there were protests from drivers about the morning traffic jams in Madrid. The hashtag #DiaSinCoches was trending in Spain.
Alona Fdez Larrechi tweeted that "on the A1 they must have understood the #DiaSinCoches back-to-front, because the jam today is considerably bigger than the jam on other days".
Alberto Roldan tweeted that "we don't deserve such mediocre politicians". He called the "car-free day" a "day of stupidity".
Madrid councillor Percival Manglano also tweeted a traffic jam photo, with the ironic caption: "Those in the photo were all enjoying the landscape".