There have been some really progressive city planning and urban design policies to come out of Europe the past few years. It’s amazing to watch how quickly European countries and citizens adapt to new technologies and modern thinking towards the environment and the notion of sustainability.
The Spanish of Barcelona has been progressive for a long time – the urban planner Ildefons Cerda and his chamfered grid of city blocks that created the 19th century extension to the city (Eixample neighbourhood) were a visionary example of modern city planning.
The problem is that cities are like living creatures – they slowly evolve over time. As cultures shift and technology progresses, people live their lives differently. Therefore, the way that they use and interact with the space around them changes as well. Horses and buggies used to saunter down the streets, but now they’re filled with endless traffic. Cars clog the arterial streets of most major urban centres, slowing people’s movement and productivity while also contributing to pollution and costly health issues.
Barcelona wants to give itself an update – their solution is to slowly push out the cars and make space for people again. With one of the highest population densities in the world, Barcelona is willing once again to adopt a new way of city thinking. The city is proposing the creation of ‘Superblocks’… a strategy that creates a series of mini-neighbourhoods while removing vehicles from nearly 60% of the streets and giving that space back to citizens.
Essentially, 9 city blocks are grouped into a clump and most traffic is diverted around this neighbourhood – every third street. Local traffic would be permitted, and deliveries can be made in the evenings, thereby forcing businesses to adapt (Darwin, baby). As a city with a great subway system, an excellent bike share program, and generally warm weather, this could be a huge success in encouraging people to walk, bike, bus, subway, etc. Not to mention all the added space and the creation of new neighbourhood identities. I really hope the strategy pans out and is adopted by other cities, creating better spaces for people to live their lives. Muy bueno.