25 Apr SuperBlocks
Barcelona have more than 6 millions inhabitants, not only by residents but by tourists and businesses. This phenomenon leaves the streets flooded with cars and vans. We have all fallen victim to Barcelona’s vehicle over-population at some point – whether it’s noise or air pollution.
The consequences are a lot more shocking than you might think. In fact, studies are showing that air pollution is causing up to 3,500 deaths every year in the metropolitan area of Barcelona. But it also brings grave problems to the ecosystems and agriculture. It’s plain to see that the municipalities of Barcelona are inconsistent in meeting the air quality targets established by the EU. In fact, studies shows that if we simply met the EU-mandated levels for nitrogen dioxide, 1,200 deaths could be prevented each year. This would result in an average increase of 5 months of our life-expectancy.
What Can We Do?
In the light of such risks, Barcelona has introduced the SuperBlock, a new concept which aims to redirect traffic around the outside of new “mini” neighbourhoods. Each SuperBlock will reach up to 400 x 400 metres and will consist of 9 existing blocks. Cars and scooters will be able to travel around the outsides of these SuperBlocks at the current speed limits. However, within the SuperBlocks, only pedestrians, cyclists and the private vehicles of the residents will be allowed. This will be complemented by the arrival of an improved bus service. Also, 300km of new cycle paths so citizens are still able to travel but in a risk-free environment.
The desired outcome is to reduce car-usage around the city by 21% within 2 years. Although, this is an ambitious project, the benefits are numerous and so varied. First, it will help reducing pollution and therefore improving air quality and reducing noise pollution. Furthermore, SuperBlocks will reduce the amount of road accidents (of which there were over 9,000 last year). Also, it will help alter our sedentary lifestyles, encourage interactions and events within the community and finally. Moreover, our streets will be free and we can re-gain our green spaces. At last, Barcelona will be able to revive its culture, expression and social cohesion.
Let’s Do It!
SuperBlocks is already on its way to development, implemented first in the Eixample areas given its existing grid-like patterns. With an initial budget of €10m, the first task is to redirect traffic around the predicted SuperBlocks. The following step will be to de-industrialise these “mini” neighbourhoods by creating green spaces and freeing up space for residents.
Barcelona is even more busy because of its location next to the sea and its perfect climate. Unfortunately, its growing popularity is detrimental to our health, the local environment and the quality of life of our residents. Without a doubt, this is a challenging project, but it could be the successful solution to make Barcelona a healthy, sociable and green space that can finally breathe.
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