Barcelona’s idea for creating public spaces and reducing air pollution

Barcelona has drafted a new strategy to restrict traffic to big roads and turning secondary streets into ‘citizen spaces’. Currently faced with excessive pollution and noise levels, the city aims to reduce traffic by 21% and free up nearly 60% of streets currently used by cars to turn them into public spaces. The plan is based on the idea of superilles (superblocks) – mini neighbourhoods around which traffic will flow, and in which spaces will be repurposed for culture, leisure and community use. Superblocks are meant to be smaller than neighbourhoods, but bigger than actual blocks and they will be complemented by the introduction of new cycling lanes. The main idea behind superblocks is that the city should be able to breathe, not only for health reasons (air pollution is the cause of 3,500 premature deaths in Barcelona’s metropolitan area) but also for ideological reasons. The introduction of the superblocks has faced some degree of popular resistance, but only from those areas where they have not been built yet. Instead, in the three mature superblocks, the advantages have sunk in and resistance has evaporated.