Cycling through the Turia Gardens, the park that curves for 9km around the centre of Valencia, is a handy and healthy way to get around Spain’s third-largest city, whether you need to get to work or want to see the sights.
A longstanding strategy to create a bike-friendly environment means the city has 150km of cycle lanes, as well as 40 streets with priority for cyclists. Valencia is aiming to become a “15-minute city”, with the key places where citizens and tourists are likely to want to go in a radius that is accessible on foot, by bike or by public transport within about a quarter of an hour.
The park follows the course of the Turia river, which was diverted away from the centre after a disastrous flood in 1957. A plan to build a ring road was abandoned after protests by the forward-thinking Valencians, who demanded instead that the riverbed should become a much-needed green space. The Turia Gardens opened in 1986 and the park is one of the largest in Spain, housing the spectacular City of Arts and Sciences, designed by Santiago Calatrava.
While there’s been a lot of talk about environmental issues in many cities of late, Valencia has been busy actually making things happen with a pioneering sustainable tourism strategy. It is the first city in the world to verify its carbon emissions from tourism-related activities, part of a commitment to be a carbon-neutral destination by 2025.
The Valencian water company Global Omnium, in collaboration with the Visit Valencia Foundation and the city council, measured the sources and environmental impact of greenhouse gas emissions in 2019 with respect to travel to Valencia, transport around the city, accommodation, restaurants, shopping, leisure activities, water management, waste treatment and tourism infrastructure. The study showed that 81 per cent of the carbon footprint in the tourism sector came from travel to the city, by plane, train and cruise ships.
Emiliano García, head of tourism at Valencia City Council, said: “This information means we can see what needs to be done. We have to increase our use of natural resources to generate renewable energy and expand the electric public transport network. We should also be using our green spaces to increase the absorption of CO2. We want to make Valencia one of the most sustainable cities in the world and attract the sort of tourists who share this outlook.”
This is an excerpt from an article by Annie Bennett, originally published on the Independent.