Barcelona is a stunning city and one of the most popular cities in Europe for tourists to visit. The city is planning for a radically new future - one essentially without cars in much of the city. To that end, Barcelona is building new "superblocks" around the city and banning cars.
The idea is that a healthy city should breathe and not be choked with gridlocked streets of polluting cars. Cars are taking up 60% of the public space in the city. The plan is to make Barcelona healthier and a better place to live. It is thought that it will also save hundreds of lives from heavily polluted air.
Barcelona's Vision Of Green "Superblocks"
In Barcelona, one can now see "superblocks" around the city car-free - these are to be mini neighborhoods that traffic will flow around. It is the latest attempt from the city to move away from the hegemony of cars. The city's plans are ambitious and they want to transform the city.
- Speed Limit: 10 km/h or 6 MPH
These superblocks are made up of nine existing blocks joined together into an area that bans all but essential vehicles. And even those essential vehicles are restricted to just 10 km/h or 6 mph within these blocks. Within these blocks, car lanes have been narrowed. Also, the vehicles that do get inside are required to give way to pedestrians.
- Superblock: Made up Of Joining 9 Blocks And Banning All But Essential Vehicles
- Parking: Parking For Residents Is Underground
- Public Space: Cars Take Up 60% of The Public Space In The City
This new mobility plan aims to reduce traffic by 21% and free up nearly 60% of the street currently used by cars and turn them into so-called "citizen spaces" according to the Guardian. The streets that cars once drove can then be reused for other things like recreation, parks, trees, running tracks, and more.
- Citizen Spaces: Reuse The Streets For Parks, Sitting Areas, Running Tracks, and More
In addition, they will also make new districts an order of magnitude greater than the first "superblocks". The streets within these districts will only be accessible by motor vehicle to deliveries, essential services, and the residents.
The residents who have opposed the move and expressed their wishes to have their cars parked outside of the homes (they must now park underground). Or because they are concerned about the impact on their local businesses by cutting off traffic flow.
The Idea Has Grown
“think of the new city for the present and the future — with less pollution, new mobility and new public space.”
The concept of the "superblock" was first introduced in 2016. In the years since then, the idea has grown and now Barcelona plans a major super-sizing of the idea.
Now the plan is for Barcelona to convert its entire central grid into a greener, pedestrian-friendly area almost totally cleared of cars by around 2030.
- Plan: To Convert The Entire Central Grid Almost Completely Car-Free By Around 2030
- 2020: Six Superblocks Have Been Made
By the beginning of 2020, there were just six superblocks but Barcelona is planning for hundreds of others. Soon it may not just be Barcelona - other cities like Seattle are considering introducing similar revolutionary urban planning. Cities all around the world are looking for ways to reduce people's reliance on cars and encourage walking, cycling, and public transport. They are looking for healthier ways for their cities to run.
The Benefits of Rethinking Barcelona
It should be noted that Barcelona is a city with few parks and extreme population density. It is a city with a lot of people and only limited space. Removing cars is seen as the answer for creating new squares, public seating areas, and tree-lined green avenues.
It is thought that by nearly banning cars, Barcelona will free up space for some 21 new pedestrian plazas at what were once busy intersections.
- New Plazas: Plans For 21 New Pedestrian Plazas
The squares and streets will be planted out with trees. These will shade some 6.6 hectares of new green space as they become mature. There will be an extra 33.4 hectares of pedestrian space. Work on this large project is set to begin in 2022.
The plans are for at least 80% of the street to be shaded by trees in the summer with at least 20% of the surfacing should be permeable. Half of the total is to be planted with grass so that the ground can soak up rainwater and flood resilience.
Shading will help reduce temperatures in the summer, while the plants will actually help to decrease allergies.
So the next time one is in Barcelona, one may have to walk to visit the stunning Sagrada Familia.