Saturday, February 24, 2018

The Road To Formentor

Antoni Parietti would never have envisaged that almost ninety years after he started drafting the project, the road that was he was responsible for would become the subject of such debate. There were in fact two roads, both of which are being scrutinised because of the apparently excessive volumes of traffic. Sa Calobra was one; Formentor was the other.

Parietti was an engineering genius. Either that or he was mad. It has been said of the Formentor road - thirteen kilometres in length - that it would not now be built. It probably would, but it would be built under very different conditions to the construction of the 1930s. There are no records as to what might have befallen some of the men who worked on it. The project was enormously dangerous and complex. The curves were necessary in order to counteract the slopes. Rock was removed from cliffs in order to give support. Men would have to scale pine trees in order to carry out some of the work.

The lighthouse at Formentor was already there when Parietti embarked on his project. The road that was eventually built is, like that of Sa Calobra, iconic because of its design. But it was a road constructed for the 1930s, when Formentor tourism meant a day's excursion in a rudimentary bus that would make its way from Palma and back. Those were the days; today is very different.

The Council of Mallorca, we learn, has counted the number of vehicles which use the road in summer. Overwhelmingly, these vehicles are private cars. The number reaches a peak in September. There are more than 8,500 per day, not all of which go as far as the lighthouse; around 40% stop at the beach and go no further.

Does this number represent an excessive volume of traffic? For a road conceived in the 1920s and built in the following decade, the number sounds vastly too great. But the solution can never be a remodelling of the road. It is what it is, and it will remain what it is.

But when the Council provides us with the figures it has, what are we comparing them with? There are no comparative data for previous years. By how much has the traffic therefore increased? No one can say with any certainty.

The figures have been presented in order to make the Council's case for limits to be imposed on private vehicles. There is to shortly be another meeting, one involving Pollensa town hall, in order to determine how restrictions are to be applied and at what times of the year the limits will be imposed. Drivers wanting to undertake the hairy route to the lighthouse will no longer be able to. They will instead have to park somewhere in Puerto Pollensa. Where? Then they will have to get on a shuttle bus, which won't be introduced this summer because it has to wait for the new bus service concessions (coming in next year) to be established.

So, it could be that there will be limits this summer but without any bus to compensate for a prohibition on car use. Even once the bus service is created, how many people will this be able to move?

Yes, the number of vehicles sounds like way too many, but then Formentor has always attracted a lot of tourists. In fact, the main reason why the road was built in the first place was because of tourism. Parietti, as well as having been an engineer, was also for a time the president of the Fomento del Turismo, the Mallorca Tourist Board. Formentor was a key attraction, a key excursion in the early years of Mallorca's tourism. It still is.

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