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Stop Messing with Consell de Cent, Stop Messing with Health

Consell de Cent ambient.jpg
Photo: Daniel Bartolomé / Barcelona City Council - Consell de Cent street in Barcelona.

The legal action against the pedestrianisation of Carrer Consell de Cent in Barcelona is unacceptable if the health of the population is to be improved.


The recent court case initiated by Barcelona Oberta, an association of commerce and tourism hubs, and the subsequent court ruling against the reforms in Consell de Cent as part of the Superilla/Ejes Verde program, was ill-conceived, embarrassing, and absolutely not what is needed, as Barcelona grapples with record-breaking heat and droughts. Why try to stop and reverse urban changes that have demonstrated benefits for our health and well-being, while providing an opportunity to mitigate climate change?


Daniel Bartolomé / Barcelona City Council


The current urban and transport planning set-up in Barcelona leads to nearly 3000 premature deaths and many more cases of disease each year because of the high levels of air and noise pollution, lack of green spaces and physical activity, and the urban heat island effect. Barcelona has one of the highest traffic densities (per km2) in Europe, while only 1 out of 4 trips is taken by car. A compact city such as Barcelona is not made for cars but for public transport, walking and cycling.

This is an unacceptable situation and rather than taking the city council to court, Barcelona Oberta should actively support any measures that reduce pollution and encourage sustainable transport to help improve public health outcomes including disease and mortality. 


Daniel Bartolomé / Barcelona City Council

Urban planning for health

Recent health impact assessments showed that implementing the full Superblock program in Barcelona can prevent nearly 700 premature deaths by reducing air pollution, noise, heat island effects and by increasing green spaces and physical activity. Implementing the Green Axes (Ejes Verdes) project can reduce mental health problems and related medication use by up to which is essential for good mental health. Finally, more green space reduces the urban heat island effect, thereby reducing related mortality by a third.

The changes that have been made in streets Consell de Cent, Rocafort, Comte Borrell and Girona are an excellent start of urban interventions that should urgently be extended to many other streets in Eixample, the most polluted neighbourhood in Barcelona. As a matter of fact, the ultimate aim should be to pedestrianise all of the Eixample area and only allow a number of selected vehicles in. In the meantime, traffic speeds should be restricted to 30 km/hr in all streets in Eixample and all commutes that have no home, work, or study destination in Eixample should be banned.

Fewer cars, more sales

Concerns are always raised that such measures may lead to loss of retail sales but recent evidence suggests the opposite, an increase in sales. Furthermore, concerns about increased traffic in surrounding areas may not be justified as traffic is not static and a reduction of road space for traffic will lead to a reduction in overall traffic (traffic evaporation or the reverse of induced traffic).


Daniel Bartolomé / Ayuntamiento de Barcelona

People-centric cities

This summer I visited a number of Dutch cities where they started reducing the number of cars entering the city years ago. These cities were relaxed, vibrant, and most people in these cities suggested that cities do not have to rely on cars. Is Barcelona finally ready to adopt these positive changes, or does people´s health need to suffer more?

We need to urgently move away from outdated 20th century car-centric city models that lead to death and disease and embrace the 21st century people-centric city models that not only take into account mobility but also sustainability, liveability, and health. When implemented, these new measuresmake the city a great place to live in, combat the climate crisis, and promote health.