Ban Private Cars in London)
Barcelona is blessed with amazing natural infrastructure. Backed by mountains, flanked by two rivers and with a horizon stretching across the blue sea of the Mediterranean.
My wonderful guide Carlos Orti of Barcelona Camina , took me up to the mountains by funicular trainfor a strategic view across the city.
Here we found locals picking the tender stems of wild asparagus. Whilst the foragers were picking out the hard to spot delicate green shoots of spring, we were picking out the crucial points of infrastructure in the city
In the late 19th century, the ancient city walls, which were creating a cauldron of disease, were demolished and Eixample or ‘Expansion’ was built between the old city and the surrounding small towns of Sants , Gràcia, Sant Andreu etc.
Ildefons Cerdà was the visionary, pioneering Spanish urban planner whose street layout is characterised by long straight streets, a strict grid pattern crossed by wide avenues, and octagonal city blocks . Cerdà, considered traffic and transport along with sunlight and ventilation in coming up with his characteristic octagonal blocks. I was told that the street design was to have facilitated a tram network.
The core idea was that the city should breathe and the growing population could be spread out equally, as well as providing green spaces within each block.
Unfortunately Cerdà had not anticipated that the streets would become polluted and congested with cars and motorcycles. The wide avenues became one way motor traffic dominated speed drags. Random parking of motorcycles and cars blocked the safe passage of pedestrians and cyclists.
Les Superilles or ‘Superblocks’
Barcelona has been working hard to reverse this trend for the last ten years, improving pedestrian spaces, making walking a desirable and healthy alternative to car use. The metro is well designed and intutive and is undergoing expansion. There is also a well connected train and bus network.
The next phase is the so called Superilles or ‘Superblocks’ which aims to make secondary streets into ‘citizen spaces’ for culture, leisure and the community’. In such a densely populated City with a notable absence of green space, this will create vital greening as well as quality public space.
Ada Colau, the current Mayor of Barcelona, aims to reduce car use by 21% within her Mayoralty and increase mobility by foot, bike and public transport. The new Superilles or ‘Superblocks’ will be complemented by the introduction of 300km of new cycling lanes.