It turns out cities focused on people, rather than vehicles, are cleaner, quieter, have more public space, and even help you live longer.  One city in Spain is showing the rest of the world how this might be done.

Barcelona is revolutionizing city planning by taking areas equal to nine city blocks and transforming them into human-friendly communities. These blocks prioritize pedestrians and bikers and offer walkable local services and limited streets with slow speed limits. A recent study has also found that these blocks also prevent 700 premature deaths each year, increase life expectancy by an average of almost 200 days, and save around 1.7 billion euros a year. Mark Nieuwenhuijsen, an author of the study says, “When you build a [superblock], the idea is that you take away space from cars and put in space for people.” 

The health benefits come from reduced air and noise pollution, more time outdoors, increased exercise, and a generally more relaxed environment. In addition to changing the physical structure of cities, these blocks change the general atmosphere as well. These areas have more children playing outdoors, more neighbors getting to know each other, and more peaceful open spaces. Overall, they facilitate a sense of community, which is perhaps their greatest achievement. At the Optimist Daily, we love urban planning that puts people first. As for the added health, longevity, and environmental benefits, they’re just peachy.