Seattle May Try to Replicate Barcelona’s ‘Superblocks’

The intersection of a Superille, with excess street space repurposed for play. Photo: BCN Ecologia
The intersection of a Superille, with excess street space repurposed for play. Photo: BCN Ecologia

A Seattle council member is proposing that a six-block area of the city’s Capitol Hill neighborhood be transformed into a Barcelona-style “Superille” or “Superblock.”

These clusters of blocks — in which car traffic is mostly curtailed — have become hugely popular in the Spanish city, transforming residential districts by creating walkable, child-friendly neighborhoods with welcoming public spaces.

Council Member Teresa Mosqueda thinks that superblocks would work well in her district, so she is urging that Seattle pilot the model in a six-block area of Capitol Hill between between Pine and Union between 12th and Broadway. Vehicle traffic would be routed around the area, sparing residents living on the interior blocks the noise, pollution and danger of interaction with traffic.

Mosqueda said she would take up the idea after the election in November, when she hopes it will receive the support it needs in the council, Margo Vansynghel at Capitol Hill Blog reported.

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Of course, Seattle, a national leader on street design, is already experimenting with a similar idea. The city calls its experiment “home zones.” It is offering $350,000 in grants for neighborhoods that want to try traffic calming within “a grid of arterial streets.”

By all accounts, the Superilles experiment in Barcelona has been a huge success, as David Roberts at Vox has detailed. On some of the city’s earliest Superblocks, bike trips rose by 30 percent and walking jumped 10 percent. The blocks make urban life quieter and more peaceful and sociable by creating a space for gathering and play, as the photo above shows.

Barcelona eventually hopes to expand them to cover the entire city.

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