Colau will have eliminated 17 lanes of traffic in the Eixample by 2023

Mallorca street will see the greatest increase in congestion when the new 'superilla' is in operation

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The change in the design of Consell de Cien Street foreseen in the Superilla Barcelona project

BarcelonaBarcelona's City Council has finally made public the reports that opposition groups have been demanding for months on the impact of the new plan for pedestrian-first areas in the Eixample (known as superilla) on traffic. All measures to make streets more pedestrian friendly have a flipside, which is that other streets become alternative routes and absorb more traffic. In the case of the first street where measures will be taken, Consell de Cent street, the nearby Mallorca street will expect to take the brunt, especially between Muntaner and Sicília streets. Although it is currently not an especially busy street, it is expected to exceeded 90% saturation at rush hour by 2023, with a similar phenomenon occurring on Valencia street between Urgell and Rambla Catalunya.

The municipal forecast, however, is that the new design will favour streets such as Sant Antoni Maria Claret or the Besòs side of Gran Via, and that most of the grid will not suffer major shocks, although it is estimated that the capacity to absorb traffic will fall by 15% compared to 2019. Overall, however, the study does not foresee "any relevant impact on private vehicle accessibility to the Eixample," nothing that would affect "its centrality on a regional scale."

The extensive report on the impact on the mobility as a consequence of the superilla which, as advanced by El País is already available for consultation by the public, puts the number of traffic lanes that Colau's government expects to have eliminated by 2023 at 17. Of these, in fact, nine have already been removed in projects such as the reform of the Meridiana, the protection of school environments or new bike lanes, and the forecast is to eliminate 8 more between now and next year, especially in transformations such as the conversion of Consell de Cent (between Vilamarí and Passeig de Sant Joan), Roquefort and Borrell (between Avenida de Roma and Gran Via) and Girona (between Diagonal and Gran Via) into pedestrian-first areas, involving the suppression of five lanes. The change in the design also includes projects such as the new tunnel of Glòries or the extension of the tramway from Glòries to Verdaguer.

In total, this means 17 lanes less. Most (12) of them will be up-down lanes (i.e. NW-SE), which are easier to reduce as they carry less traffic than lanes that go across (i.e. WE-SW), such as Aragó or Gran Vía. According to the report, this will mean a 15% drop in peak-hour traffic capacity in the central Eixample compared to 2019 (so far, the changes that have already been rolled out in the area have reduced it by 8%). It will not reach the 25% reduction in the circulation of private vehicles foreseen in the Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan 2019-2024 foresees.

Congestion in 23 kilometres

The Eixample road system as a whole now operates at rush hour with congestion on 16.3% of its lay-out. Municipal calculations, based on a "conservative" scenario of a 10% reduction in traffic – due to situations such as working from home or drivers' changing habits who may resort to public transport, cycling or walking – set the percentage of congested sections to 16.5% by 2023, i.e. 23.3 kilometres of congestions of over 90% during rush hour.

It is pointed out, in this sense, that although no significant increase in congestion is foreseen, it is possible to foresee some congestion will transfer to different areas, such as Mallorca Street, where 26,000 vehicles pass daily, or a lengthening of the traffic complications beyond the peak hour.

And how should this be avoided? The key, according to the reports, is to reduce private vehicle traffic by 23.6%, which would still be below the target of 25%. The government is following the example of what happened in the Sant Antoni superilla, where traffic fell by 21% since 2017, to defend that the change is feasible.

The Eixample now supports 44% of the traffic that cross the city along the SW-NE axis (350,000 vehicles per day, of which about two thirds start or end outside Barcelona) and the City Council is confident that the planned improvements in the public transport network, such as the tramway, commuter trains or the completion of the central section of the metro L9, will multiply the sustainable alternatives for metropolitan mobility.

Fewer lanes around schools

The municipal government insists that the aim of projects such as the new green axes in the Eixample is to rebalance a public space that is now too focused on traffic: the private vehicle accounts for 26% of trips, but occupies approximately 50% of the public space in the Eixample destined for mobility. In addition to the superilla project, there are also plans to remove a traffic lane in streets such as Urgell, Entença, Bailèn and Nàpols to make the areas around schools friendlier. In this case, however, the changes will not be carried out uniformly on the whole street.

Impact on parking

The document also estimates that once the plan is rolled out (expected by 2030) there will be a 2% reduction in loading and unloading spaces, a 44% drop in spaces for people with reduced mobility and a 33% drop in spaces for motorcycles on the roadway, but it is estimated that 92% could be compensated within a block's distance. The disappearance of these parking spaces is one of the points that has strained the relationship between En Comú, the mayor's party, and the socialists, who are her coalition partners and are more critical of the project.