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Could Barcelona be the first carless smart city?

October 21, 2019

October 21, 2019

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Could Barcelona be the first carless smart city?

When thinking of smart cities, a few devices may come to your mind; such as trash cans that tell you when they’re full, smart traffic systems that can divert traffic based on technology, and sensors that can predict which signs need to be turned on. 

When thinking of smart cities, a few devices may come to your mind; such as trash cans that tell you when they’re full, smart traffic systems that can divert traffic based on technology, and sensors that can predict which signs need to be turned on. 

But smart cities go beyond that. 

A smart city’s defining asset is its ability to use Internet of Things to collect and use data to improve resources. But sometimes a basic restructuring is all that’s needed in order for the “smart” elements in an area to come to their right. Many cities are already thinking about the way they manage car traffic in order for some areas to work better. 

Traffic congestion from cars is a huge issue for many cities, alongside carbon, water, air, and noise pollution, as well as road accidents and maintenance. 

Barcelona is one city that is particularly suffering under our auto-centric society. It’s an incredibly dense city and its most populated suburb is denser than Manila. Yet car ownership is increasing and as more commuters are flooding into the city, locals are having to compete for road space.

That’s why Salvador Rueda, a Barcelona native and urban planning expert, is working to make Barcelona the first car-free city in the world. He has gained the attention of the municipal council and could be well on the way to making it a reality.

Rueda has recently redeveloped the Sant Antoni market and created a 5,000 square metre area of pedestrianised public space. While local residents and service vehicles are permitted to enter, they must drive at walking speed, and there are plans for more green space, bike paths, and better bus connections. 

While Rueda’s transformation of Sant Antoni is definitely worth celebrating, Barcelona as a city has also made noteworthy steps towards becoming a carless smart city, such as a city bike system called ‘Bicing’ with stations located strategically near parking spots, metro stations and parks, and ‘The Transit System’ which is a new integrated service by the Transports Metropolitan Barcelona (TMB). It consists of a network of bus lines running all over the city so the traveller won’t have to make more than one transfer to get between any two destinations in the city. When waiting for the bus, you can hide under smart bus shelters that use solar panels to power screens showing waiting times. 

For those who do need to use their car in the city, a clever sensor system is there to guide them to open car parking spots, streamlining the journey and preventing unnecessary congestions. By booking a spot online, tedious waiting and queuing can be avoided.

In addition, Barcelona has implemented other IoTs that are not specifically car related including a heat-reducing LED lighting system with sensors that monitor the environment and can increase or decrease lightning depending on the amount of people, the time of day etc. And yes, they also have smart bins which use a vacuum to suck the waste into an underground storage facility.

Barcelona is already well on its way to becoming a fully-fledged smart city. If Rueda’s vision comes true, and if the city keeps pushing forward their ambitious Smart City IoTs, it may also one day be the first carless city in the world.


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