Modern cities are ruled by cars. Streets are designed for them; bikers, pedestrians, vendors, hangers-out, and all other forms of human life are pushed to the perimeter in narrow lanes or sidewalks. Truly shared spaces are confined to parks and the occasional plaza. This is such a fundamental reality of cities that we barely notice it any more.
Some folks, however, still cling to the old idea that cities are for people, that more common space should be devoted to living in the city rather than getting through it or around it.
But once you’ve got a city that’s mostly composed of street grids, devoted to moving cars around, how do you take it back? How can cities be reclaimed for people?
The city of Barcelona has come up with one incredibly clever solution to that problem.
It’s a bird … it’s a plane … it’s SUPERBLOCK
As anyone who has visited knows, Barcelona is absolutely dreamy — one of the most pleasant, walkable cities on Earth, filled with markets, sidewalk cafes, and bustling street life.
But it too has become clogged by cars and choked by air pollution over the past few decades. So in 2014 it developed an Urban Mobility Plan, designed to give the city back to people (and reduce pollution).
In America, we can’t even agree on the idea that cities are for people. We still decry bike lanes as a “war on cars,” even in our allegedly progressive West Coast cities. So from where I’m sitting, the Barcelona plan is pretty fantastic: 186 miles of new bike lanes, a revamped bus system with better access and more frequency, more green space, and on and on.
But the coolest idea in it is “superblocks” (superilles in Catalan), a concept developed by Salvador Rueda, director of the Urban Ecology Agency of Barcelona. (Cities of the Future has a great interview with Rueda and a history of the superblocks concept — highly recommended. The Guardian also has nice piece.)
The idea is pretty simple. Take nine square blocks of city. (It doesn’t have to be nine, but that’s the ideal.) Rather than all traffic being permitted on all the streets between and among those blocks, cordon off a perimeter and keep through traffic, freight, and city buses on that.
In the interior, allow only local vehicles, traveling at very low speeds, under 10 mph. And make all the interior streets one-way loops (see the arrows on the green streets below), so none of them serve through streets.
Read the rest HERE.