Across the world, Barcelona is widely recognized as a best practice example for city planning and management, urban solutions, environmental programs, preservation/growth of green areas, transportation and regeneration.
This model has repeatedly received different international awards and has been replicated in different cities. Throughout this article, which will be published in two parts, we will look at the different tools, models and ideas that have made Barcelona one of the European cities with the best quality of life, and a place where living green is convenient to citizens.
The city has an effective intermodal transportation system that links all major means of public transportation together (bus, underground, tram, suburban trains and bicycles). Integrated fares and ticketing make it attractive for citizens to use public transportation. Rail networks are the city’s high-speed backbone while people often get around within the city by bike or walking. Bicycles act as feeder systems for rail stations and are used to reach specific locations not covered by motorized public transportation. Just three months ago, the city government launched Bicing, an initiative that incorporates bikes into the public transportation system. The service has already attracted 30,000 users that join the city’s 43,000 daily bike users. The service would not have been successful if the city didn’t have 120 kilometers of bike lanes, bike-friendly streets and efficient connections to other transportation options.
Intermodal hubs also link the urban transit systems with regional and international networks, a high-speed rail system links the international airport with a downtown station for subways, suburban trains and buses. Just like in Curitiba, buses have access to special lanes with junction priority, making it a more attractive option than driving your own car. Barcelona has adopted a sustainable mobility strategy that promotes the use of public transport, pedestrian areas and that invests in environmental means of transportation such as trams and bicycles instead of other non-environmentally friendly options.
According to the 2005 Mobility Survey on Working Days, over a third of all travel within the city is made on foot or by bicycle, and almost 40% is by public transport. Private transport is only used for 25% of trips.
During the last year the city government has made major investments in underground waste containers. A system that has a waste-disposal truck lifting the container out of the ground to empty it. Some of the advantages compared with above ground containers include: optimization of space above the ground (unobtrusive), larger capacity that reduces the frequency of collections necessary, odors are minimized due to stable low temperatures, acoustic contamination is improved and a better environment around the containers, since waste no longer sits around. Garbage is recollected at night, avoiding traffic congestion. The investment required will be repaid by the productivity of the collection operatives, who can empty each container in less than two minutes, meaning that one person can do more than three had previously.
Just after the service was launched, government representatives visited households to personally explain the advantages of the new system, offer tips and encourage recycling practices. Selective collection is also promoted, as each container is color-coded for different types of materials. Despite that recycling happens on a voluntary basis, recycling rates in Barcelona are high (31.4%), showing the high degree of commitment to living sustainable lifestyles.
Per year each Barcelona citizen recycles 116.6 lbs of paper-carton, 35.2 lbs of glass, 19.4 lbs of plastic and cans and 118.1 lbs of organic waste.
New waste collection infrastructure also includes a double purpose street panel that provides advertising spots for companies and a place to throw away small domestic products that require special disposable handling such as CDs/DVDs, light bulbs, halogen bulbs, batteries, mobile batteries, pens, printers cartridges, video tapes, cassettes and lighters. Scattered around the city, the panels not only make it easy to get rid of these products but leverages publicity to finance its collection.
Next week, Part 2: From brownfield regeneration to home solar