Can you imagine a city without cars, where only the noise of birds and children playing fills the air?
In the Catalonian capital of Barcelona, what was once a dream of environmentalists is now becoming a reality as the city turns over streets full of cars to open spaces with trees playgrounds and even a running track.
Superblocks is a scheme to reclaim once busy streets from the noise and pollution of traffic.
By doing this Barcelona thinks that it can extend the lives of its residents by eradicating the heavily polluted air and laying down a green blueprint that can be copied by other cities around the world.
Hundreds of superblocks are being planned
So far Barcelona has just six superblocks, but there are hundreds more being planned for the future.
Each superblock comprises nine existing blocks that are joined together into an area that bans all but essential traffic with deliveries to shops and businesses regulated to certain hours of the day.
All traffic entering superblocks are speed restricted to just 10 kph (6mph) which helps to cut down noise.
Many residents living in superblock areas are opposed to the idea as it means them parking their cars in underground car parks built outside of the superblocks.
They would prefer, as is the norm in Spain to park under where they live, or on the street outside. Businesses too feel that by taking the cars off of the street it would be detrimental to trade.
Seattle is looking at Barcelona’s experiment
Another city looking closely at Barcelona’s experiment is Seattle, Washington, in the United States. Seattle has the best public transport system in America and one of the most environmentally conscious cities in the country.
During a recent interview with the BBC, Barcelona’s Deputy Mayor for Urbanism Janet Sanz said:
“Cars take up 60% of public space across the city; as soon as you redistribute that space and rebalance the situation you are supporting groups that until then have had no access to that space.”
Another plan for the superblocks is that they create their own electricity.
Once the infrastructure was paid for residents would be allowed to get their electricity for free with any surplus energy sold back to the national grid.
Alcoy needs to ban cars in parts of the city
If we look at Alcoy, the local government, run by Antoni Francés, and the PSOE is very forward-thinking and has done many good things for the city since taking power.
Hopefully, this will lead to all of Alcoy’s buses being Hybrid and then one day all-electric.
Recently there has also been talk of incentives for people who ditch their cars in favor of electric bicycles and scooters.
Here at AlcoyToday we especially like the idea of superblocks and car-free zones and would love to see the historic center of the city and perhaps the Avenida Hispanidad in Alcoy Norte ban cars.
The idea of neighborhoods being able to generate their own electricity is also appealing, especially given the high cost of energy these days.
Again, we must applaud the local government in their decision to change the street lighting from old sodium bulbs to LEDs which are up to 50% more energy-efficient, saving the city thousands of euros per year in electricity costs.
Alcoy is a very innovative and progressive city that has the chance to be an example for other cities in Spain, now if we could only get the cars off the street it would be a big win for everyone.