Barcelona, Spain (population: 1.7 million) is a charming coastal city with a medieval town centre, fantastic and famous architecture, great beaches and cliff-side cafés… A friend of mine (from Barcelona) used to describe his city as “the GREATEST city in the world!” After several visits, I can attest: it is one of my favorites!
Despite its charm – even greatness – Barcelona suffers from way too much traffic. Facing serious air quality and congestion problems, the city is adopting various traffic-calming measures. Notably, it ranked 11th on WIRED’s 20 Most Bike-Friendly Cities on the Planet list in 2015, in part for having one of the world’s best used city-bike sharing schemes. I like!
Barcelona’s latest move aims to build on its success, via the adoption of so-called “Superblocks” or superilles in Catalan. Put simply, Barcelona is making use of its existing city-grid planning style, closing off sets of city blocks (3×3 city blocks) and turning these new 9-block zone into their own micro-communities. There within, most vehicle traffic is banned; only local vehicles are allowed, traveling at very low speeds (~10 to 15 km/h). Instead of cars and freight, green spaces and people are prioritized.
Barcelona’s local government has six aims for these Superblocks (as highlighted within an article on Vox, 2016)
- To support more sustainable mobility;
- To revitalize public spaces;
- To promote biodiversity and urban green;
- To promote and improve the urban social fabric and social cohesion;
- To support self-sufficiency in the use of resources;
- To integrate local governance processes.
Superblocks are currently being implemented in several Barcelona neighborhoods, with more planned along the way. I love this idea!
Want to learn more? Check out the video (below) and corresponding article on Vox as well as Barcelona’s Ecology, Urban Planning and Mobility Council.