Between pedestrian streets, new green neighborhoods and car-free days, Barcelona offers a peaceful face. The current projects reflect the new life that the capital of Catalonia can offer.
Larger works excluding cars and 2 wheels from the city center
Ada Colau has launched many projects where the presence of cars and motorcycles will be reduced to a minimum. Hell of noise and pollution will give way after work to a quieter space.
Four meters wide sidewalks, bike lanes, two bus lanes and a single lane for cars, Via Laietana will soon be unrecognizable. One of the busiest (and most congested) traffic arteries in the city center is undergoing a radical transformation to bring a little more tranquility to the neighborhood.
The plans and pictures of the project are reminiscent superillas, these pedestrian blocks in several neighborhoods of Barcelona that have marked Ada Colau’s mandates and have even been hailed by the UN as an example to follow in the fight against global warming. The transformation of Via Laietana is also part of the large pedestrian project for the current municipal team, which has set itself the goal of 1 million square meters without cars by 2024.
Pedestrians will be able to benefit greatly from the new avenue thanks to the construction of very wide sidewalks, but also the creation of new spaces. A large esplanade in particular will connect the cathedral with the Santa Caterina market.
In the direction of Tibidabo, a lane will be reserved for buses, taxis and vehicles from local residents. Another lane is available for cyclists. In the other direction, towards the sea, buses, taxis and bicycles will share a corridor. Foreign motorists will only have one lane, towards the sea, and it will be limited to 30 kilometers per hour.
To avoid saturation of the sidewalks, City Hall announced that there would be no restaurant terrace or bar on the new Via Laetania.
A budget of 44.56 million euros has been approved by the city council to give birth to a new Rambla de Barcelona. The project drastically reduces the space for vehicles, just as much as it increases the space for pedestrians. The roads and sidewalks of the current ramblas disappear to make room for a uniform pavement. Six meters in width has been restored for pedestrians. The passage of vehicles will be restricted to car traffic for local residents, bicycles, buses, delivery of goods, service cars and access to parking spaces in the district.
There will be even more benches and chairs on the sides of the aisle, in the shade of the trees. At the level of the green, the flower and plant boxes will be enlarged. Uniform lighting with a simple, simpler and more functional design. Jordi Rabassa, city councilor in Ciutat Vella, assured that there will continue to be florists on the new Rambla. There will also be newspaper kiosks, some will be relocated to facilitate pedestrian crossing.
The route for the Colom-Drassanes zone will be changed to improve the connection to the coast. A new urban arrival space is being created facing the sea. A group of trees where the promenade meets the shipyards and the Columbus statue.
According to City Hall, the new Rambla should promote culture, defend residents’ local lifestyles and limit tourist overflows.
Work will begin later this year.
The new Diagonal
Work began in 2021, so the Catalan capital is finally getting rid of this city highway that crosses the entire city. To facilitate the movement of people, a large place is left for the installation of a tram on the central corridor of the avenue. Bicycle paths, sidewalks and green areas also fill a large part of the space. Polluting vehicles, cars and motorcycles are reduced to the absolute minimum.
Between Passeig de Sant Joan and Carrer Marina, the tram will run along the central trunk next to a 4-meter-wide two-way cycle path separated by a green area. The sidewalks will be widened to seven and a half meters. Two lanes to the right and left will be reserved for cars and motorcycles.
One of the major changes is at the confluence of Diagonal with the streets Aragó and Marina. Pedestrians, trees, cyclists and trams are given priority here. Cars will be diverted from this part of the diagonal towards Aragó. Road traffic from Marina Street will only be able to turn left when it reaches Aragó, and will not be able to drive towards Diagonal Avenue.
Between the streets Marina and Castillejos the central boulevard (with an underground tunnel) is maintained and the tram will pass on both sides. The sidewalks will be extended to seven and a half meters and car traffic will be reduced to a single lane. The two-way bike path on the rest of the Diagonal continues on the mountainside.
The prevalence of cycle paths
Cycling in Barcelona can seem idyllic to some, and disappointing to others. Today, the city has a network of 240 kilometers of cycle paths, which have only been expanded in recent years thanks to a favorable policy from the town hall and an increase in cycle users. The number of tracks is expected to increase further in the coming years.
But for the Catalan Cycling Club, even though there are many of them, these tracks are not necessarily suitable. “The network is not clearly defined or really homogeneous. Bicycle paths are not always well connected, especially not on the outskirts of Barcelona. Many tracks still cross the sidewalk, they are not wide enough, and there are still areas where they are missing“, Notes Adrià Arenas, spokesman for the association. But in general, Barcelona is a benchmark city for cycling in Spain. “Valencia is certainly even better than Barcelona, with a much clearer policy, on the other hand Madrid is conspicuous by its absence in this area. “
100% pedestrian areas
1 million square meters without a car in Barcelona, that’s the balance Ada Colau wants to leave. The municipal teams make their accounts and should reach this record figure thanks to the pedestrian zone (superillas) already established in the Sant Antoni and Poblenou areas. Before the end of the Ada Colau mandate in May 2023, two more pedestrian neighborhoods will appear in the Eixample and Sant Martí. Specifically, a large pedestrian street will be created in the streets of Provença, Ausiàs March, Nicaragua and Casanova, connecting places that are already car-free, such as the streets of Enric Granado and Gaudí avenida.
“One million car-free square meters with public transport, green areas and local stimulation” welcomed Janet Sanz. The Deputy Mayor sees nothing less than one ”change of model for Barcelona, which makes the city of the future possible ”. The budget for the works is 525 million euros distributed between 2021 and 2022.
“The pedestrian areas of Eixample and Sant Martí will improve air quality throughout the city” predicts Ada Colaus number 2.
These works in the Eixample reflect the pedestrian districts already built in the Poblenou and Sant Antoni districts.
Children’s cycling initiatives
In Barcelona it is called “bicibus” A procession of children going to school by bicycle was opened on Diagonalen. A touching initiative, but not without demands. Sant Antoni, Arago, La Diagonally, Bicibus invades the city.
The “Bicibus” initiative was born in September 2021 from the spirit of parents of students in Sant Antoni. By the start of the school year, they had decided to go to school with their children on bicycles, all of them. Today, the idea is conquering more and more establishments, in Barcelona as elsewhere. In the Catalan capital, several primary schools now have their bicibis “stop”, on a total of three “lines”: bicibis Sant Antoni, bicibus Letamendi and the brand new bicibus Diagonal.
According to the organizers, more than 35 companies would like to participate in the initiative, and that goes even further. A line, translated to a “bicycle bus”, has been created at san francisco, in California (USA), in December last year. Like what, the bike can cross oceans.
Clearly, an agreement between friends on Friday morning enchants the blonde heads who attend it. “It’s my favorite day we can go to school with friends” explained little Aitana, 7 years old, to Equinox November last year. One mother, Nina, even added: “My daughter would never miss the bicibus deal, she only talks about it all week, she even eats fruit Friday morning to get more strength”.
But the reason for the initiative is quite different. For parents and organizers, it was a matter of reclaiming Barcelona’s urban space, where cars still dominate, and struggling with a means of transport that is fun, sporty and organic at the same time: the bicycle.
In order not to miss the next bicibus departures, go to the organizers’ Twitter account here.