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Barcelona 'Superblocks' Aim to Cut Down on Cars

Seeking relief from noise, pollution, and incessant traffic, the city of Barcelona has a bold plan to repurpose street space. "Superblocks" will route cars around the perimeter, leaving interior streets open for walkers and bikes.
June 16, 2016, 8am PDT | Philip Rojc | @PhilipRojc
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The plan opens up more streets to pedestrians.
Filipe Frazao (Shutterstock)

Like many American cities, Barcelona devotes most of its road space to cars: "Private vehicles account for just 20% of total movements in the city today and yet they occupy 60% of roads." In pursuit of a 21% reduction in traffic, Barcelona's new mobility plan places heavy emphasis on the concept of superilles, or "superblocks." Marta Bausells discusses the ambitious plan in detail. 

"In Eixample, a superblock will consist of nine existing blocks of the grid. Car, scooter, lorry and bus traffic will then be restricted to just the roads in the superblock perimeters, and they will only be allowed in the streets in between if they are residents or providing local businesses, and at a greatly reduced speed of 10km/h (typically the speed limit across the city is 50km/h, and 30km/h in specific areas)."

The city will roll out the superblock concept in series of gradual interventions, changing road signs and bus routes while leaving much of the streetscape intact. The superblocks idea has been around since 1987, and the first tests began in Barcelona in 2003. Currently, the idea is already being tested in nine districts via a trial-and-error process that has been called tactical urbanism. 

The city hopes to achieve its 21% traffic reduction in two years, along with a corresponding shift to bikes, buses, and pedestrian trips. To get there, 300 km of new bike lanes are in the works. 

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Published on Tuesday, May 17, 2016 in The Guardian
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