Automatically translated from Basque, translation may contain errors. More information here. Elhuyarren itzultzaile automatikoaren logoa

"Bilbao is a strange city for children, especially our neighborhood: the Casco Viejo"

  • “Right now, crossing the zebra crossing in green is dangerous in our country,” says ARGIA Aitziber Sagarminaga, mother of Atxuri School. The lack of space in the school environment (with a narrow sidewalk), insecurity (one of the main entrances and exits of Bilbao) and the pollution and noise of cars have invaded the road for a day and have turned it into a "sidewalk".
Atxuriko eskola inguruaren egoera salatzeko, protesta ludikoa egin dute, errepidearen errailetako bat okupatuz.

21 February 2023 - 06:57
Last updated: 09:21

The public school Maestro García Rivero, which has 480 students, has been asking for measures to adapt the school environment, “so that boys and girls can come to school calmly, so that they do not suffer extreme contamination rates and stressful noises when in class or patio”. They have also made a proposal to the City Council of Bilbao.

They call on the City Council of Bilbao to plant trees and expand the sidewalk, removing one of the lanes of the road, in order to deal with pollution and insecurity. Why don't they get a municipal response?

They tell us that they have to analyse the feasibility of the proposal, they hinder us, because vehicles are the priority over the welfare of children. They argue for feasibility, but we call for a feasible alternative, we believe that school entrance and exit should be a more comprehensive solution, but we have put forward a more feasible proposal: to remove a lane from the road and to have the place to finish the bus journey. We have also called for the speed limit for road vehicles to be guaranteed, that is, for the law to be complied with. And it's feasible, because they're being done elsewhere, we're seeing in the center of Bilbao itself that sidewalks are getting wider. Why have they not yet responded positively? We sincerely believe that the City of Bilbao has its priorities elsewhere and a lack of political will in this area.

"School entrance and exit should be a more comprehensive solution, but we have put forward a more feasible proposal. The center of Bilbao is opening sidewalks"

Moreover, in 2021 two parents of the Atxuri school received a fine of 600 euros for protest in the zebra. Against this background, do you envisage a long-term struggle?

We hope that they will send us good senses and find the way out as soon as possible. At the time you mentioned, we demanded the presence of the Municipal Guard to cut the entrance and exit of buses in the students' hours of entry and exit, because we have experienced very serious and dangerous situations. We asked that, since they did not do the street for pedestrians or did not do the alternative proposed by us (that buses end their journey elsewhere), at least the agents of the Municipal Guard carried out their work, and we have still been putting the fence in the hours of entrance and exit of the students tomorrow and afternoon ourselves, defending the lives of our children, because the City Hall does not send the agents.

The Pagasarribide school in Bilbao has also demanded more security; in Álava, 29 centers have been claimed with the objective of “a safe, healthy and co-educating school environment”; in the Matxinada Schools the movement demands safe and playful school environments… When the centers’ outer spaces are gaining strength, what basic characteristics do the school environments need?

They should at least ensure the well-being of children rather than prioritising vehicles or other economic interests. Let us focus on the development of children, on safety, on health… so that they can come to school calmly, when they are in class or in the yard, they do not bear extreme pollution rates and stressful noises. We must treat children with respect, care and guarantee their rights, and in no case does the school environment in which we find ourselves guarantee their safety and health, not properly care for their development.

"The neighborhood does not guarantee the children's play, the few spaces we had for the children have been lost, like the Plaza Nueva, where what was a space to play is now a place for the terraces"

Beyond the school environment, do we generally have urbanism and cities that take children into account? In the case of Bilbao, for example.

It is curious that the City of Bilbao has the seal of Friendly Cities of Children since 2018, but our city is alien to children, especially to our neighborhood: the Casco Viejo. It does not guarantee the children's play, nor the safety of the children, and we have lost the few spaces we had for the children, like the Plaza Nueva, which was a space to play, now is a place for terraces. It doesn't matter the Arenal: if there are swings, but it's a place outside, those of us here feel strange, it's full of people. In general, narrow streets and the priority of vehicles throughout the traditional city. The seal of Bilbao requires taking into account the needs of children and providing the city with spaces to develop its health, safety and leisure seriously, but at present Bilbao hardly fulfills these conditions.

"Since 2018 the City of Bilbao has had the seal of Friendly Cities of Children, but Bilbao hardly fulfills the conditions"

There is precisely a movement that encourages children to go to school walking and alone. Utopia in your case?

At another time we participated in the Eskola Bidean project and the students made the move from house to class in groups. Before we did a job to identify the safest spaces, etc., but right now we see it necessary that the City Hall provide guarantees to be able to resume a project of this kind. We are convinced that the day will come and that our rulers will understand that they must prioritize citizens, especially children, and when we manage to get children to school for themselves without endangering their lives, we will relaunch a project such as the School Path, because it is a very nice experience that directly affects the development and relationship of children. Right now, crossing the zebra crossing in green is a danger to us, and without some basic guarantees it is difficult to undertake such a project.

Ms. Sagarminaga tells us that "we have been putting the fence in the students' hours of entry and exit, defending the lives of our children, because the City Hall does not send the agents".


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