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Barcelona’s ‘superblocks’ to create mini urban villages

Barcelona's Eixample neighborhood will be the first to experiment with a new strategy for limiting automobile access and speeds. (Iakov Filimonov)

Barcelona is reinventing city streets with “superblocks” that dramatically reduce congestion and create more public gathering space.

David Roberts reports for Vox that these roughly nine-square block zones relegate traffic to the perimeter. Only local vehicles are granted access to interior streets, and at low speeds of 20 kph (12.4 mph) or less.  Freight vehicles and buses are restricted to the periphery of the superblocks, or superilles in Catalan.

The concept was developed by Salvador Rueda, director of the Urban Ecology Agency of Barcelona, Vox notes. It was featured in the city’s 2014 Urban Mobility Plan. “In this way, you create a nine-square-block mini village, the interior spaces of which can be more equitably shared between cars and other uses,” the article says. Another advantage is that the superblock idea can be applied existing street grids, without the need for new infrastructure.

Rueda tells Cities of the Future that the idea came to him in 2002 when he was designing a new bus network for Barcelona. Under phase two of Rueda’s plan, street parking would be shifted to garages and some interior streets would be used for games, sports and cultural activities.


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