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Barcelona’s new superblocks

Barcelona is in the midst of dramatically rethinking its urban fabric to address issues around urban mobility and climate change. Initially laid out in this 2014 Urban Mobility Plan for Barcelona, the city is now implementing something it calls superilles (or superblocks in English).

Here’s what it looks like:

The idea is to concentrate transit and vehicular traffic onto the edge of these new superblocks and then convert the interiors into livable spaces for pedestrians and cyclists. Here’s a description from the Agència d’Ecologia Urbana de Barcelona:

“Superblocks are made up of a grid of basic roads forming a polygon, some 400 by 400 meters, with both interior and exterior components. The interior (intervía) is closed to motorized vehicles and above ground parking, and gives preference to pedestrian traffic in the public space. Though the inner streets are generally reserved for pedestrians, they can be used by residential traffic, services, emergency vehicles, and loading/unloading vehicles under special circumstances. The perimeter, or exterior, of Superblocks is where motorized traffic circulates, and makes up the basic roads.”

The result is going to be an absolutely radical shift in the amount of public space given to drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists. When their 2014 report was issued, it was estimated that 73% of public space was allocated to cars (versus pedestrians). This plan will completely flip that ratio. With the superblock model, it is estimated that 77% of public space will now be allocated to pedestrians.

Here’s what that is expected to look like…

Before:

After:

There are also plans to expand the bicycle network to roughly 95% of the city’s population.

Before:

After:

If any of you are from Barcelona, I would love to hear a local perspective on this mobility plan. Were and are there cries of a war on the car?

Images: Top image from Tom Walk (Flickr); Maps from Urban Mobility Plan of Barcelona 2013-2018

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