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Barcelona to continue boosting 'superblocks' and cycle lanes, says mayor at COP26

Ada Colau calls on administrations to invest in commuter trains rather than expanding airport

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02 November 2021 09:32 AM

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ACN | Glasgow

Barcelona's mayor, Ada Colau, has committed to continue boosting the so-called 'superilles', or 'superblocks' – pedestrianized squares with space to relax and socialize in where there was once heavy traffic.

Talking to media at COP26 in Glasgow, the anti-austerity politician said on Monday that her council will also continue to expand cycle lanes and promote public transport.

Colau met with mayors of other cities that are part of the C40 world network of local governments lobbying for climate action, also including the likes of London and Paris.

"Barcelona is leading the way in a lot of topics," said Colau, along with mayors Sadiq Khan and Anne Hidalgo, adding that the 'superblocks' are a model worldwide.

Recently, the deputy mayor in charge of urban planning, Janet Sanz, explained that the Catalan capital will have gained 100 hectares of additional space for pedestrians, cyclists, and green areas in the period between 2015-2023.

The city council led by Colau has been invested in a process known as tactical urbanism, something that has had a huge impact on how people live and interact with their neighborhoods.

Tactical urbanism is the umbrella term to describe functional changes made to a city to alter the use of public space. It is usually a cheap, fast, and even reversible way to alter the city’s usage, and Barcelona has been doing a lot of it in recent years. To learn more about these changes, have a listen to the recent 'Filling the Sink' podcast on urbanism in Barcelona. 

Trains over planes

Colau also called on the Catalan and Spanish governments to invest in public transport like the Rodalies commuter network and other train services, rather than spending money on expanding Barcelona-El Prat Airport. These services and infrastructure are what "the majority of the population really needs," according to the mayor.

Debate over the potential expansion of Catalonia's biggest airport has been raging for months, with Spain eventually omitting the proposals from its 5-year plan. This was welcomed by environmental groups but Catalan vice president Jordi Puigneró criticized the move, saying, "once again, the Spanish government doesn't deliver on its promises to Catalonia."

For their part, Spain cited a lack of support from the Catalan government as the reason for ditching the expansion plans.

Spain to increase climate finance

Meanwhile, Spanish president Pedro Sánchez has promised to increase Spain's contribution to climate finance by 50% by 2025.

Sánchez addressed the opening session of COP26 as leader of the host of the previous edition, held in Madrid in 2019.

He announced a committment to spend €1.35bn per year from 2025, saying "we know what we have to do, but we need political determination and immediate action."

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  • Mayors of the C40 network at COP26, in Glasgow, including Barcelona's Ada Colau, London's Sadiq Khan and Paris' Anne Hidalgo, on November 1, 2021 (by Natàlia Segura)

  • Mayors of the C40 network at COP26, in Glasgow, including Barcelona's Ada Colau, London's Sadiq Khan and Paris' Anne Hidalgo, on November 1, 2021 (by Natàlia Segura)

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