Modern cities across the world have struggled to move away from the 20th Century's car-centric model to a more walkable, livable one. Barcelona is trying to pull it off by creating giant spaces where streets are only for people and cars are limited. Meet the "superblock:"

Video by Vox on youtube.com.

Barcelona has serious air and noise pollution problems. To address them, the government started a pilot program to eliminate car traffic in five places around the city, reclaiming road space for pedestrians.

In each of those areas, Barcelona has created (or is creating) a superblock, where nine city blocks are joined together and through traffic inside of them is prohibited; cars that come in can only move around a single block and then back out of the superblock. 

Within the superblocks, the speed limit for vehicle traffic is only 10 km/h (6 mph), and street parking is not allowed, in order to maximize pedestrian use.

The program seems like a tentative success, as the amount of air pollution and noise has decreased in the city while businesses within the superblocks have benefited from increased pedestrian traffic.

The video also describes the challenges American cities face in implementing similar problems. Currently, only small areas are dedicated exclusively for pedestrian use in major American cities. Even then, most of these areas are exclusive, and only serve affluent areas and already thriving businesses.

Other problems in the United States include regulations, such as zoning laws, which keep commercial and residential areas far apart from one another, and parking minimums, which require a large amount of space to be dedicated for car use.

How can North American places work to make streets more pedestrian-friendly?

Thumbnail: Image by Dennis Matheson licensed under Creative Commons.

Stephen Hudson resides in Southwest DC — the fourth quadrant he has lived in. He works for a government relations firm and has previous experience with transportation policy at a trade association. His professional interests include transportation and infrastructure, foreign languages, and comparative international politics. The views expressed are his own.