Public Space, Mobility and Accessibility in the District of Gràcia (Barcelona)
The District of Gràcia is an area subject to many urban pressures, with a population density larger than the rest of Barcelona. With so many people in such a small space, Gràcia has seen an influx in the presence of private vehicles and a subsequent loss in the availability of pedestrian space. In response, the District of Gràcia teamed up with BCNecologia to implement a project that would improve the district’s urban mobility. The project focused on returning the city to the citizens, overcoming the current dichotomy between the driver and the pedestrian. This project ultimately increased movable spaces for pedestrians, restricted access to private vehicles, introduced collective parking for cars, motorcycles and bicycles, and established multifunctional, pedestrian-friendly areas. Today, the District of Gràcia boasts a comfortable public setting that promotes social cohesion, ensures mobility and accessibility, and reduces environmental impacts.
The project was based on a unique design for increased mobility called Superblocks (in Spanish, Supermanzanas). Superblocks are defined through a set of basic roads which form a polygon or inner area, and contain within them a public space geared toward the citizen. This inner area is almost entirely closed to through vehicles. The implementation of Superblocks in Gràcia was accomplished using a citizen participatory process and a communication plan designed for all affected citizens.
The Superblock has allowed the reorganization of the city to be integrated with the needs of the pedestrian, while at the same time, improving the efficiency and capacity of parking and designated loading and unloading areas. Public transport has increased in popularity and bicycles now have their own network. The space dedicated to private vehicles versus the pedestrian has finally been reversed. Green spaces and pedestrian oriented areas have doubled, improving mobility and alleviating the feeling of confinement in the urban space.