Barcelona's Turning More Than Half Its Streets into Pedestrian Zones

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As the second most populous city in Spain, Barcelona’s near 4.7 million person metro population makes it one of the largest cities in Europe—and that’s not even including the 7.4 million tourists who come to the city each year. However, the way all of these people navigate the city is about to change, as Barcelona has announced a plan to turn 60 percent of its streets into “green spaces” reserved for pedestrians only.

Apparently, Barcelona has been historically bad at providing its residents with the pedestrian access they need—its 6.6 square meters of green space is less than the World Health Organizations recommendation of at least 9 square meters per person. The new proposal would shift Barcelona from its current state to something much closer to Amsterdam, one of Europe’s leaders in walking-friendly zones, which has around 87.5 square meters of green space per person.

Even though the plan could be seen as a ploy to attract more foreign visitors, it seems as though the city has thought this thing through pretty thoroughly. For example, Barcelona will also add more than 150 miles of new bike lines and significantly improve its current public transit system—projects that will likely be appreciated much more by residents than by tourists.

The green zone construction will start in the Eixample district, where the nine blocks of the neighborhood’s grid-organized streets will be turned into a so-called superblock allowing only bikes, foot traffic and emergency vehicles. If the experiment in Eixample is effective, the entire plan will likely be set in motion.

Ideally, the reduced number of cars would cut back on air pollution, which may cause up to 3,500 premature deaths per year in Barcelona alone, according to The Guardian. In addition, wheelchair accessibility and average public transit wait time is expected to improve significantly, basically making this decision a total slam dunk for anyone living in the city’s metro area.

So if anyone loves driving their own vehicle or really just appreciates some good gas-guzzling, you’d better go ahead and book a trip to Barcelona before pedestrians begin to rule the city’s transportation.

Dillon Thompson is a travel intern with Paste and a student at the University of Georgia.

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