In an effort to dramatically reduce air pollution and expand the city's public green space, Barcelona is planning to close 60 percent of its urban streets to public traffic, dramatically redesigning the Spanish metropolis.
Inspired by a 1987 traffic noise-reduction plan calling for the creation of "superblocks," Barcelona plans to create a series of mini-neighborhoods of about nine city blocks each. The streets within these superblocks will be closed to public traffic, limiting cars and trucks to just the streets bordering each mini-neighborhood.
"I’m already fantasizing with neighborhood-organized inflatable swimming pools in the summer," joked Salvador Rueda, Barcelona's director of urban ecology, in an interview with The Guardian.
Turning the majority of Barcelona's roadways into pedestrian zones may seem radical, but so are the anticipated benefits.
Studies estimate that the city's current air pollution accounts for 3,500 premature deaths each year, in addition to tens of thousands of asthma attacks and preventable cases of bronchitis. Barcelona is also an extremely dense city, with an average of just 71 square feet of green space per person (compared to London's 290 square feet or Amsterdam's 942).
When paired with 186 miles of new bike lanes and a revamped bus network, the changes should reduce car use by an estimated 21 percent and free up nearly three square miles of space for public use.