Pavement enlargement in Barcelona

Barcelona, Spain ,2020

The Barcelona Public Health Agency estimated that there are 1000 deaths per year (7%) in the city associated with excess pollution.

This is why the city saw the covid pandemic as a need for action and an opportunity. To avoid a modal shift towards motorised modes for fear of contagion, it was decided in April 2020 to promote active modes, ensuring a safe distance.

This was done by boldly widening pavements in busy areas, installing cycling facilities and terraces, and reducing to one lane the space and speed of motorised traffic. There were also road closures on 34 secondary roads. In total 12 kilometres of streets were widened by 4 metres on each side, gaining a total of 30,000 square metres for pedestrians. In addition, 21 kilometres were installed for bicycles and scooters.

But that’s not all: these pacified axes are intended to form more of the famous superblocks in the future. The aim is to accelerate the transformation of the city towards non-polluting modes of transport.

Despite being a major strategy to promote sustainable modes of transport, the performance was widely criticised for its use of garish colours and concrete blocks in a city that is a benchmark for design. On the other hand, the creators of the superblocks criticise that the action is not too daring and loses the momentum that cost them so much.

What do you think? Should tactical urbanism be more radical?

Photos by: Arnau Rovira, Joan Sanchez, Ajuntament de Barcelona

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