When looking at the picture I have of myself on top of the mirador of the Palacio de Comunciaciones in downtown Madrid (visit! It’s pretty!), most people say things like “wow, you are so lucky to live in such a pretty place!” My friend who studies environmental issues, however, pointed to the skyline and said, “look, a little photochemical smog.”
Air pollution is, like almost every other city in the world, a part of life in Madrid. Yes, we have those beautiful blue skies, but sometimes our atmosphere (and our streets) need the cleaning that a good downpour can bring. But reports from local government state that air quality is better than a decade ago and, unlike many other cities, it is constantly improving with new environmental regulations.
If you’re particularly sensitive to urban air pollution, however slight it may be, here are a few easy ways to find the feeling of fresh air right here in the city center:
1. Spend time in Parque del Buen Retiro, which is large enough and far enough from streets to have significantly better air quality than the surrounding streets. This has the added benefit of being a beautiful place to spend time and exercise!.
2. Speaking of running, if you can’t make it to Retiro, try doing your running in a gym; runners take in much more air than a person at rest, which means you may prefer an indoor solution.
3. Choose your outdoor paths to avoid highly-trafficked roads. The worst air pollution is, predictably, near high-traffic roads, and so you can use your commute to find a less-travelled path to wherever you need to go.
4. If you must be out and about, shoot for early morning. An early morning run is slightly less problematic for your lungs because of the ways pollutants circulate during the day.
For more information about air quality, including a map that shows up-to-date air quality around the city, visit http://www.mambiente.munimadrid.es/svca/index.php