The government of Barcelona led by the mayor, Xavier Trias, is finalizing these days a real coup that will not only be one of the great novelties of this final stretch of municipal mandate, but also can change in the short or medium term the way that Barcelonians have to appropriate the public space of their city. In a matter of very few weeks, in all safety during the month of March, the City Council will launch an initiative inspired in part by the practices being carried out by other large cities but adapted to the new reality of the Catalan capital,
a reality in the that, in the dispute over public space, the priority of the pedestrian over the private vehicle is increasingly evident and has no reverse. The Diagonal will be the test laboratory of an experience that, shortly after it works, the Consistory will also take to other streets of the city. Every Sunday, the sides of the great avenue of Barcelona will be closed to the circulation of cars and motorcycles so that citizens can occupy them for their civic enjoyment.
The measure, which Xavier Trias and his deputy mayor of Habitat Urbano, Antoni Vives, have been maturing for a long time, will be applied every Sunday and holidays between 9 in the morning and 5 in the afternoon, in the sector of Diagonal between Plaza Francesc Macià and Plaza de las Glòries , along three and a half kilometers. Not only will Barcelona be able to walk along the conventional sidewalks -which in the stretch between Francesc Macià and Paseo de Gràcia have been generously extended-, but also to occupy the side lanes for the walk, for running or to accompany the more little ones who start cycling.
In this space snatched from the car on holidays, tables, chairs and even chairs will be installed – like those that triumph in the urbanization of Glòries Square – for citizens to rest, sunbathe, read or converse, so that boys and girls play again in the street and, in short, so that whoever wants to enjoy a day outdoors in the city. But, undoubtedly, the highlight of all is that this large portion of the Diagonal that will undergo the amazing Sunday metamorphosis will become, in fact, a large public park with recreational and cultural programming that will vary according to the demands of the citizen entities of all kinds, be it an association of neighbors or merchants, a solidarity organization, a home for the elderly, a grassroots sports club or a cultural group, to name just a few examples.
At least at the start of this initiative, the City Council will schedule leisure activities along the avenue. This is what the third deputy mayor and councilor of Habitat Urbano, Antoni Vives, calls ” programmed park “. As it happens already in some green zones of the city, it will not be strange to participate or to witness in the Diagonal a multitudinous class of yoga or taichi, the performance of groups of children’s entertainment, a fair of artisan products, a session of gymnastics for the elderly and, in short, any activity that can be imagined in a public park in the city. As the project is consolidated, the purpose of the City Council is to cede the organizational role to the authentic Barcelona civil society. including the entities of the third social sector.
In its premiere, this initiative of the municipal government will not be limited to the Diagonal.
Another emblematic street of the city, the Passeig de Gràcia , which for lack of some small detail or retouching has completed its reform, will also be submitted from March to this experiment that Antoni Vives, in contrast to the “urbanism of the stone” ( the one of the works and the great reforms), defines as “planter’s urbanism”. On the Passeig de Gràcia, the side road will also be used by pedestrians for holidays, at the same time -from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.- when this measure will be applied on the Diagonal. The affected section will be the one between the Cinc d’Oros (the confluence of the Passeig de Gràcia and the Diagonal) and the Gran Via. The lower part of the promenade, from Gran Via to Plaza Catalunya, will maintain its usual configuration and uses.
The head of Habitat Urbano has explained to La Vanguardia that, after the reforms carried out in many of the main roads of the city, such as Passeig de Gràcia, Balmes street, Passeig de Sant Joan, Ronda General Miter, Paral · Lel or Avenida Diagonal (the total completion of the works in the latter is marked around March 15), works that in all cases have represented an increase in space dedicated to pedestrians, “we thought it was not enough, we had to go a step further and that the city could take it, “says Vives. “This is the urbanism of the stone – continues the councilman – but Barcelona has enough urban quality to allow us to put a planter in a space that was not designed for people and thus transform it into a space for people.” It is the application in the field of urbanism of the motto of Mayor Trias “the city of people” and the mantra that is repeated in the department that directs Vives, which insists, among other things, on creating a city “at human speed”.
The partial closure of the Diagonal from March will have a differentiated treatment in the four consecutive sections of the avenue in which this measure will be applied. From Francesc Macià to Via Augusta, the car veto on the sides will be total, both on the sea side and on the mountain side. Between Via Augusta and Passeig de Gràcia, only the lateral sea will be affected; the circulation on the mountain side will remain open to facilitate the connection between Sarrià-Sant Gervasi and the Eixample. Between Passeig de Gràcia and Passeig de Sant Joan, the two bands will also be used as a park, as will the Sant Joan and Marina promenades. Logically, the complex crossing of roads that occurs in the area delimited by Diagonal, Marina and Aragón, will make it the exception in the application of the measure. And, finally, between Marina and Glòries (in fact, Castillejos street) the closure will be partial. The Mobility area is finishing designing the special treatment that some points of the Diagonal will receive, as well as the way to solve the entrances and exits of the parkings located in the affected areas.
A widespread trend across the planet
What Barcelona will try in a couple of months in the Diagonal or Passeig de Gràcia goes in the same line as many other experiences of pacification of the urban space carried out by cities around the world, which take advantage of the holidays to close streets that support an intense traffic throughout the week or provisionally enable spaces that were never conceived for the peaceful use of their citizens. New York, London or Paris have been offering for many years numerous examples of this trend that has become widespread in almost the entire planet, as shown by many South American cities. This is the case of Medellín, where very congested roads, in the heart of the city,
in the neighborhood of El Poblado, become weekends in the so-called bicycle paths, streets reserved for the use of the bicycle or to practice running. Antoni Vives and his manager, Albert Civit. They know what it is like to make legs on the asphalt of the Colombian city, in an area that would be comparable in a certain way to the entrance to Barcelona by the Diagonal. Also São Paulo, the largest city in South America, a megalopolis with an impossible traffic, able to put the most impassive European driver out of the nerves, has dared to close every Sunday the Minhocão, a frightening viaduct that literally skims the blocks of flats. Now, the holidays on this fast track are cyclists and pedestrians and the spontaneous initiative of a few young people has led to the appearance of a street market.