Sammy Arschavir

A cheap and sustainable solution for a city saturated with polluting traffic.

How would you solve the issues that traffic congestion bring such as air pollution, noise pollution and delayed traffic. These are obvious characteristics which define traffic congestion, however when looking at the problem in some context (Barcelona) and in more detail we see other issues which arise as reported in the Guardian:

 

“A study from the local Environmental Epidemiology Agency determined that 1,200 deaths could be prevented in the city yearly just by reaching EU-mandated levels for nitrogen dioxide levels (this would mean a five-month rise in life expectancy). Add to that an estimated 18,700 fewer asthma attacks, 12,100 fewer cases of acute bronchitis and 600 fewer cardiovascular-related hospitalisations, and the problem becomes apparent for a city with a population of 1.6 million. Traffic is also the first cause for noise pollution in the city; 61% of its residents live with noise levels higher than those deemed healthy by legislation… The city has only 6.6 sq metres of green space per inhabitant (with the figures standing at just 1.85 in Eixample and 3.15 in Gràcia), closer to Tokyo’s three than to London’s 27, or Amsterdam’s staggering 87.5. The World Health Organisation suggests every city should have at least 9 sq metres per capita.”. So how does Barcelona propose to solve these said issues?

 

Barcelona’s Superblock Proposal

Their proposal is the Superblock. A superblock, would contain nine blocks (three blocks by three blocks) so would have four vertically flowing streets and four horizontally flowing streets. The current system has alternating directions of one way traffic as shown in the picture. In the new system, the external streets will retain their original function (one-way for the length of the superblock), while the interior streets will be reconfigured in such a way that if a car turns off the one-way exterior street, they will be forced in a loop around the block taking them back to the exterior street that they first exited from but one block behind where they turned off of it (see picture for phase 1, it’s hard to describe in words). These interior streets are for residents and delivery drivers only and have a speed limit of just twelve mph for phase one, in phase two of the proposal the speed limit will be reduced to six mph! The result of making these small, simple and cheap changes to the permissions of the internal streets will hopefully dramatically reduce the traffic, making them almost vehicle free providing a space that people can use, children can play, communities can come together and bikes can pass through, a space that can be generally used socially. In order for these plans take place there will be 300km of bicycle paths added to the city as well as an improved bus system where anyone in the city will be 300m away from a bus stop with a waiting time of just five minutes.

 

Janet Sanz, the city’s ecology, urbanism and mobility councillor describes her ambitions for the proposal:

 

“Our objective is for Barcelona to be a city in which to live. Also, as a Mediterranean city, its residents spend a long time on the streets – those streets need to be second homes, or extensions of one's residence, at all times … Public spaces need to be spaces to play, where green is not an anecdote – where the neighbourhood's history and local life have a presence.”

 

The success of the proposal obviously cannot be known until it takes place however there are underlying principles such as Braess' paradox (when the alteration of a road network has the opposite effect from that which is expected) and the implementation of Pattern Language which suggest a positive future. These principle could also be used to describe the success of Superblocks in other Spanish cities such as La Coruña and Ferrol.

 

The reason I think this is great design lies in the ethos behind it all. I love that they are designing for people and the environment, not for cars. In my opinion, for most cases, cars aught to have lowest priority and more environmentally minded methods of transport have higher priority. I also love the simplicity of the solution, it is straight forward and cheap to implement, hopefully it'll be a great improvement on the current system.

A cheap and sustainable solution for a city saturated with polluting traffic.

How would you solve the issues that traffic congestion bring such as air pollution, noise pollution and delayed traffic. These are obvious characteristics which define traffic congestion, however when looking at the problem in some context (Barcelona) and in more detail we see other issues which arise as reported in the Guardian:

A cheap and sustainable solution for a city saturated with polluting traffic.

A cheap and sustainable solution for a city saturated with polluting traffic.
A cheap and sustainable solution for a city saturated with polluting traffic.