This article showcases the achievements of three European cities that have gone beyond all expectations. Through a short description, timeline and video, discover how Barcelona, Mechelen and London established ambitious UVARs that transformed urban public space and improved people’s quality of life.
Barcelona is using its iconic grid plan structure to create livable urban pockets. By grouping 9 blocks together, that’s approximately 400 x 400 meters, the Spanish city created “superblocks” (superilles). These areas of public space prioritize active travel modes and limit motorized traffic vehicles.
Barcelona’s superblock implementation timeline
- To find out more about the history and layout of superblocks in Barcelona and Vitoria-Gasteiz, and how they could be implemented in the United States, watch Vox’s 5 min video How Barcelona is taking city streets back from cars
The Belgian city of Mechelen has changed a lot. With the participation of citizens, the city centre become a cycle zone with 179 cycling streets. They give cyclists priority over motorized vehicles or are all together car-free. Therefore, the urban freight industry switched to cargo bikes to increase the flexibility and accessibility of their activities. This shift happened through the city of Mechelen and the CIVITAS City Changer Cargo Bike project’s awareness campaigns, electric bike cargo sharing scheme, and the inclusion of cargo bikes in the city’s fleet.
Mechelen’s cycling zone timeline
- To hear short interviews about the CIVITAS project on cargo bikes in Mechelen, watch Eltis’ 3 min video The shift to sustainable urban freight
London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) and pollution charge are famous. In a nutshell, vehicles in the capital’s city centre – up until the North and South Circular Roads – need to either meet the ULEZ emissions standards or pay a daily charge. Although organized through multiple public consultations, the ULEZ faced equity issues resulting in exemptions, discounts and financial incentives. However, the ULEZ did lead to remarkable results in air pollution reduction.
London’s ULEZ and Pollution Charge timeline
- To learn more about London’s air pollution problem and how its ULEZ works, watch WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities’ 4 min video London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone
The article’s content and visuals were extracted from Jente Versigghel and Koos Fransen’s (Ghent University) unpublished research work.