On 22 September, coinciding with World Car-Free Day, Barcelona is holding its own version of the event to raise awareness on the excessive use of private vehicles and promote healthier and greener alternatives. Motorised transport takes up 60% of the city’s surface area and is the main cause of pollution, leading to 3,500 premature deaths every year in the city. Barcelona is the city with the highest density of vehicles in Europe.
To mark Car-Free Day a total of 54 traffic restrictions will be put in place on secondary roads in all districts of the city, with traffic giving way to a series of activities for citizens. Two main city thoroughfares will also be affected, Via Laietana and C/ Gran de Gràcia, where public transport will be prioritised and access limited to buses, taxis and emergency services.
In Via Laietana, from 8 am to 9 pm:
- A two-way bike lane will be opened along the middle of the street.
- The street will be closed to uphill traffic. The left-hand lane will also be closed to downhill traffic.
- Uphill traffic will be limited to buses and taxis only.
In C/ Gran de Gràcia, from 11 am to 8 pm:
- The street will be closed to private vehicles.
- Uphill traffic will be limited to buses, taxis, bicycles and emergency services.
Wherever possible, for 22 September Barcelona City Council is calling on citizens:
- Not to use private vehicles, as this may prompt more congestion in various roads in the city.
- To get around on foot, by bike or public transport.
- Plan journeys and allow as much time as possible for journeys, particularly if travelling from outside the metropolitan area.
Extra public transport services
The metro network operated by Transports Metropolitans de Barcelona (TMB) will be bolstered with more trains on the main lines (L1, L2, L3, L4 and L5) and there will be more staff at stations likely to see greater volumes of passengers, particularly around Via Laietana, Passeig de Gràcia and C/ Gran de Gràcia.
In these zones, along Via Laietana and C/ Gran de Gràcia, bus services should be trouble-free thanks to the restrictions to private vehicles. In the following zones in the city, services will make detours to guarantee the continuity and correct functioning of the service:
- Pg. Fabra i Puig.
- C/ Calàbria, between C/ Sepúlveda and Gran Via.
- C/ Mallorca, between C/ Comte d’Urgell and C/ Comte Borrell.
- C/ Vidal i Quadras and Pg. Santa Eulàlia.
- C/ Villarroel between C/ Consell de Cent and C/ Diputació.
- C/ Hurtado, C/ Marmellà, C/ Espinoi and C/ Portolà.
- Pg. Font d’en Fargues between C/ Pedrell and C/ Montserrat de Casanovas.
- C/ Polvorí.
To make sure that Car-Free Day runs smoothly, specific measures are being taken to respond to any issues that might arise during the day.
A coordination centre will involve the city police, specialist staff from City Council, TMB and emergency services. Communications officials will be in constant contact with the mobility management centre and the control centre for urban space run by City Council, ready to handle the various issues that might need resolving.
On the ground, the city police presence will be reinforced with a team of 128 auxiliaries to ensure activities are rolled out correctly. Teams will be led by district coordinators.
Less cars, better health
The initiative aims to combat:
– High pollution levels: Barcelona sometimes exceeds the maximum thresholds set out by current legislation and the World Health Organisation (WHO). Air pollution is linked to 3,500 premature deaths every year in the metropolitan area.
– High noise levels: During the day, 53.8% of the population is exposed to noise levels between 60 and 70 decibels (dBA). The limit set out by the WHO is 65 dBA.
– Accident figures: In 2015 there were 9,095 accidents with victims, 27 of whom lost their lives. The local plan for road safety aims to cut serious injuries by 20% and road deaths by 30% in 2018.
– Sedentarism: 1 in 5 children and teenagers are affected by obesity or are at risk of being overweight in Barcelona.