More room to go for a walk. Cleaner air to breathe. Better lives for people of all ages.
These are just a few of Barcelona’s goals as it regenerates itself with an eye to the next 30 years. The city of more than 1.5 million people is working to cut pollution, but also to create a lifestyle that encourages young people to stay and makes it easier for older people to take care of themselves.
“Barcelona has a very clear strategy,” says Alex Saz-Carranza, a European Investment Bank loan officer for Spain. ”The city’s new plan is addressing mobility, energy efficiency, social cohesion. All of these issues will help the city prepare for the future, but also come out of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The impact of climate change has been a major factor in recent years for urban planning, but the pandemic has added more challenges, especially on issues related to the health sector and the dense city life. Public spaces need to be organised in a way that allows people to socialise while keeping a safe distance apart.
The European Investment Bank approved a €95 million loan in 2020 to help Barcelona complete around 40 projects, with a focus on climate action and social inequalities. The city will redesign streets to make more space for pedestrians and bicyclists, improve energy efficiency in buildings, and add more social, cultural and sports outlets.
Superblocks for better living
A quarter of the loan is dedicated to regenerating nearly 200 000 square meters of land and creating “superblocks” that carve out large areas of car-free public space. The new spaces will let residents get around quickly and safely while doing business more easily:
- Pedestrians will be given priority in many parts of the city
- Low-speed zones will limit vehicles to 10 kilometres an hour
- Nurseries, schools, sports centres, a library and a care home will be built or renovated
- All new buildings will be designed to have nearly zero emissions
- New bus lines and bicycle lanes will persuade people to keep their cars off city roads and reduce emissions
- A tree-planting programme is being accelerated.
The city will become more resilient to climate change, while helping people follow social-distancing guidelines.
No traffic zones
Barcelona is among several cities in Europe, including London and Paris, creating no-traffic zones and encouraging bicycles and more street life. The moves have accelerated this year during the pandemic and the new need for social distancing. Cities are responsible for about 75% of the world’s carbon emissions.
The European Investment Bank is helping cities develop long-term solutions in sectors such as green transport, energy efficiency, affordable housing, education and health care. Over the past eight years, the Bank has invested more than €150 billion to build better cities.
The Barcelona project is similar to a €201 million financing deal, also in 2020, to help Milan make public buildings more energy efficient, make it easier for city residents to walk around and use public transport, create more green open spaces and help the economy recover from the pandemic.