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.

superblock-2-468x251

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.

8 thoughts on Seattle May Try to Replicate Barcelona’s ‘Superblocks’

  1. “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.”

    Umm that’s a three-block area and wouldn’t be as much a super-block as traffic calming on one block of 10th and 11th…something the city already does for Greenways.

    I’m not quite following the comparison with Barcelona.

  2. Something quieter and older that Seattle has done, and which has a great calming effect on residential streets, is to use what could be called “mini roundabouts” even in very small intersections. This keeps small neighborhood streets from having higher driving speeds and keeps them walkable. These date back at least to the 1970’s.

  3. I used to work on Pine and Broadway, also worked between Pine and Pike on 9th. It used to be pretty walkable. Use the eyes and watch for traffic! Not that hard to do! I completely agree with what you are thinking. Blocking traffic and creating walkable spaces in an urban environment is definitely a step in the right direction! Spokane closed down a few streets to traffic, added trees, decent walkways, nice lighting, garden boxes, etc. Works out great! They did it in the Downtown core though, and only one block at a time. There are three now. Kinda hard to justify creating a 3 square block zone on Cap Hill to ‘find out how it will work’. Start with one block first.

  4. “Of course, Seattle, a national leader on street design, is already experimenting with a similar idea.”

    No freaking way. Fake News. Seattle has the worst street designs I’ve ever seen.

  5. Berkeley, CA implemented one of the first neighborhood traffic diversion programs in the 70’s, using roundabouts (concrete circles that eventually became planters). They also closed some neighborhood roads to through routes for motor vehicle traffic that were being used as speedy shortcuts to avoid traffic clogged arterials. Pedestrians and cyclists (and probably motorcyclists) could pass through. This inspired other neighborhoods around the country to petition and lobby their city govts for similar actions. Riverside Park, a racially and economically mixed neighborhood on the New River in Fort Lauderdale, was the first in my hometown to push through their plan, using planters and fencing, which also blocked walkers and cyclists from the most direct routes to the public park and on to now more traffic busy (still less than before by making this former shortcut more time consuming for drivers. Knowing the makeup of the involved residents and the process, there was a racial exclusion reason for this impedance of walkers and bikers. The city then “donated” those portions of public roads and alleys to the neighbors abutting them, who quickly enclosed these former commmons behind fences.

  6. Language Police here:

    1)Car Free Streets are “OPENED” not closed
    2) “Traffic” is people, scooters, and bikes
    3) “Rerouting” motor traffic isn’t blocking
    4) mention “trucks” and “semis” often

    🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Activists want San Francisco to consider car free zones in neighborhoods like the Tenderloin where a spate of pedestrian injuries and deaths have occurred this year.

Car-Free Zones Eyed in SF, Elsewhere

|
A string of pedestrian injuries and deaths in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district has spurred city leaders to demand a ban on cars in some densely populated neighborhoods — the latest in a nascent and long-overdue move by activists nationwide to get reckless drivers off at least a tiny handful of city streets. San Francisco Supervisor […]

In Seattle, Neighbors Compel CVS to Build a More Urban Drug Store

|
A lot of the time, neighborhood-level development fights play out like this story from Arlington, Virginia: Miles Grant at Network blog The Green Miles writes that this transit-accessible D.C. suburb recently saw the opening of 122 units of new affordable housing, which drew 3,600 applications. But Grant points out that there would be more affordable housing […]

There’s a (Parking) Place for Us

|
This post is #14 in the Sightline series, Parking? Lots! Alan Durning is the executive director of Sightline. There are places in this world the savvy traveler would never drive with any hope of finding street parking: Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco, for example, or just about anywhere in downtown Los Angeles. That’s what you […]

Will Barcelona’s “Superblocks” Proposal Work Well for Transit?

|
Barcelona is making waves with plans to test a concept it’s calling “superblocks.” The idea is to create nine-block squares of “citizen spaces” — about 400 meters on each side — where cars would be limited. Unlike the widely derided superblocks of the urban renewal era, Barcelona’s would be explicitly designed to preserve the street grid for walking and biking — only motor vehicle […]