Winning Back the Street in Barcelona

The Barcelona Superblock Plan

Barcelona has come up with a plan many onlookers say should change the face of the Eixample, Sants, Sant Martí, Hostafrancs and Les Corts neighborhoods, and most notably alter the daily experience of residents there. The plan is to create "superblocks" which will ideally be three by three block areas closed to through traffic and reclaimed for the residents of the neighborhood and of the city. Traffic will be allowed at low speeds (10 km/h) and only in one-block loops. Simultaneous with the rolling out of the superblocks the city will add 300 km of new bike lanes and an orthogonal bus network so no one would ever be more than 300 meters from a bus stop. 

The impetus to reorganize the urban grid came from noise and air pollution studies over the years indicating that noise levels in the city exceeded acceptable limits, and that 3500 premature deaths a year can be attributed to air pollution. The goal is to reduce traffic by 21% and increase livability.

Barcelona and Livibility

Janet Sanz, Barcelona city councillor for ecology, urbanism and mobility, points to the need to "win the street back" and increase social cohesion and human exchanges. “Our objective is for Barcelona to be a city in which to live. Also, as a Mediterranean city, its residents spend a long time on the streets – those streets need to be second homes, or extensions of one’s residence, at all times … Public spaces need to be spaces to play, where green is not an anecdote – where the neighbourhood’s history and local life have a presence.”

See Superblocks to the Rescue (The Guardian), an in-depth article on the superblocks plan. For more on Barcelona's urban planning and Cerda, the engineer who planned the 19th-century "expansion" that led the city out of the medieval quarter, see Stories of Cities (The Guardian).