Barcelona: “Superblocks” to the rescue! Returning city streets to the people.

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)

  1. To support more sustainable mobility;
  2. To revitalize public spaces;
  3. To promote biodiversity and urban green;
  4. To promote and improve the urban social fabric and social cohesion;
  5. To support self-sufficiency in the use of resources;
  6. 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.



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