Barcelona’s first ‘superblock’

Pablo Valerio, for Cities of the Future:

Two weeks ago, after nearly three decades of waiting, Barcelona urban designer Salvador Rueda finally saw the first “Superilla” (Superblock) installed in his city. The superblock faced some fierce opposition from unhappy residents and local businesses complaining about loss of curbside parking, and changes of bus stops and street direction. It was also criticized from within the city council as some council members from the opposition parties asked for it to be dismantled.

Superblocks are a straightforward concept. Take 9 square city blocks in a 3×3 grid. Currently, traffic flows all around and through these blocks. A superblock restricts all through traffic by implementing a one-way system within the superblock that’s used by local vehicles only. All other through traffic, freight and buses travel between superblocks, not between blocks:

Graphic explaining superblocks

(This is how I used to build cities in the original Sim City, by the way, although I’m not holding out any hope for greater recognition.)

One of the main aims is to help Barcelona meet the EU directive on air quality, but it also has the effect of reclaiming roads, parking bays and other space previously given over solely to cars: in short, non-places.

Rueda has faced opposition (some reasonable, some less so) from politicians and residents. If these hurdles can be overcome, more superblocks can be rolled out:

The superblocks offer similar and much broader benefits for a surprisingly cheap price tag. Implementing the first superblock took one weekend and €55,000 ($61,000). The city government has allocated €10 million to expand them to other areas of Barcelona over the next three years.