The Catalan capital’s celebrated pedestrian-first zones are expanding to cover most of the city center, Mayor Ada Colau announced.
Since the Spanish city of Barcelona introduced its first “superblock” in 2016, the concept of carving out islands of car-free space by routing traffic around multi-block areas has been influential in cities around the world. Now the Catalan capital plans a major super-sizing of the idea: Over the next decade, Barcelona will convert its entire central grid into a greener, pedestrian-friendly area almost totally cleared of cars.
At a press conference Wednesday, Mayor Ada Colau announced that 21 streets in Barcelona’s Eixample district will become a kind of super-superblock — vehicle traffic will only be permitted around the perimeter, leaving streets within the district only accessible by motor vehicle to residents, essential services or deliveries. By all-but-barring cars, Barcelona will free up space for 21 new pedestrian plazas at intersections.
Covering most of the central Eixample district, the new Barcelona superblock is a major expansion of the existing car-free spaces in the city.
These squares and streets will be planted with trees that will shade 6.6 hectares (16 acres) of new green space when mature, in a zone that will contain an extra 33.4 hectares of pedestrian space. With work beginning in 2022 to a budget of 38 million euros ($45 million), the plan represents one of the most thorough revamps of a major European city so far this century. It is an attempt, Mayor Colau said in a statement, to “think of the new city for the present and the future — with less pollution, new mobility and new public space.”
The new district is an order of magnitude larger than the first Superilla (“Super-island” in Catalan) in the district of Poblenou. Taking over nine city blocks, the 2016 redesign banished through-traffic to streets on its border. Within the block, car lanes were narrowed, and vehicles that still made it inside were required to give way to pedestrians and restricted to a maximum speed of 10 kilometers per hour. A further six superblocks have since been introduced. The city has long expressed an aspiration (albeit without a fixed end date) to ultimately transform its entire surface area with superblocks — this week’s announcement is the largest step towards that goal to date.