The city council of Barcelona has laid out a plan that will transform some of the streets in the Eixample district into car-free zones. According to the city council, the plan entails restricting cars from one in every three streets within the district. If it is successfully implemented, the plan will turn a total of 21 streets and 21 road junctions into green spaces for public use. Further, 33.4 hectares of land will be available, where residents can access pedestrian streets, green parks and recreational areas.
The ambitious project is expected to take shape over the next 10 years. It is one of many similar initiatives underway globally to curb excessive pollution. The Catalan capital is ranked among the most polluted cities in the world due to its high population density.
The Eixample business district was developed in the 19th century by renowned urban planner Ildefons Cerdà. Although the district’s layout had been unique and attractive at the time, it seems to have outlived its era. Today, the world is moving toward more sustainable cities that focus less on private cars. According to Barcelona’s city council, the Eixample district has a high impact on the rest of the city and will be instrumental in changing the pollution status for the entire city.
“The Cerdà plan … was designed to modernize Barcelona at the end of the 19th century and achieve better public health conditions,” Barcelona City Council explained. “In the current context, this large area of the city is once again an excellent opportunity to recover this spirit of urban transformation and update the Cerdà plan in the 21st century.”
In 2019, Barcelona recorded high levels of nitrogen dioxide, exceeding both the EU and the World Health Organization limits. According to a report released by the city, pollution in the Eixample district is the highest compared to other districts. Further, this pollution is estimated to cause about 23% of all deaths in the area. The hope behind the car-free zone is that the district will become safer for the local community and the planet.
Image via Jorge Salvador