“We must make a commitment to develop a more hybrid city, which does not include exclusively residential areas”
Estanislau Roca’s passion in considered to be Barcelona’s urban planning, to which he has dedicated much of his professional life: he has been during various decades a lecturer at the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya · BarcelonaTech (UPC), where he al was the vice-dean for Infrastructure and Architecture. Moreover, he has had a productive research career that led to his activity in CARNET.
He considers that the city has evolved considerably since Cerda’s Plan (1859), followed by the Macià Plan (1934) and the Metropolitan Plan (1976). The number of vehicles occupying the city has increased, to the actual number of 5,582 vehicles per square kilometer (the highest density in Europe). “In general, we have moved from a model of cities that functioned as isolated machines to a network of communication nodes that facilitate mobility in metropolises. Barcelona has made this transition”, he states.
As mentioned, he spent mostly of his life dedicated to the mobility structure of Barcelona. Fifteen years ago, he started the lecture “Caminar Barcelona” (Walking Barcelona), which main goal was to analyze the urban development and architecture by walking along Barcelona with his students. The motto of this course was considering walking as the priority in mobility systems. “A fairly flat city such as Barcelona is suitable for walking and has wide spaces for pedestrians.”
He considers that, despite pedestrianized areas tend to be safer, more accidents are caused because of cultural issues. “We should be more considerate when we drive any kind of vehicle. We have to improve the regulations and, above all, make sure that they are met.”, he affirms. Every day, 1.8 million vehicles move around Barcelona, of which one million enter or leave from surrounding towns and cities. From CARNET and together with him, we are increasing the potential of autonomous vehicles that are expected to be much safer than those driven by people.
Furthermore, another factor that has grown fast is the last-mile transport, which requires a logistic plan and its design must be considered in the urban design. “Activities such as delivery and daily distribution should be organized at times that cause the least possible disruption.”. The road space must be managed in the smartest way possible in order to gain efficiency, taking also into account ICT and particularly Big Data.
Moreover, we can’t forget about scooters and bicycles, whose growth is positive to the transport system development. “We have a lot to learn from cities that resolved their mobility problems some time ago, such as the Swiss, who prioritized the organization of transfers over an increase in speed. Or Stockholm, which proposed raising the cost of motorway tolls at rush hour to encourage public transport”. He proposes that a collection of funds within private vehicles, can be a path to improve significantly the urban mobility design.
Regarding the COVID-19 situation, the urban planning in Barcelona has been affected due to the pandemic. “We are moving towards a model of relations between people of contact with distance, to avoid overcrowding”. The proposal he assesses is to look at streets from a different point of view, enabling the widest pavements to support other functions, or resizing them in order to make more space for pedestrians. However, in order to achieve this, effective public transport should be boosted. “This could create a friendly, healthy city that is as efficient as possible, in economic aspects as well.”
So, in conclusion, he assures that the pandemic could lead to support the 15-minute city. These are new urban settlements that combine dwellings and employment, so that people’s journey from home to work takes no more than ten minutes. “My ideal concept of the city is that which is committed to ecosystem, hybrid urban planning, with self-generation of energy and a polycentric model, where there is not one center to which everyone has to go”. In order to achieve this, the city must be well-connected and designed. “In Barcelona, we have the talent for automobile technology and city design in the same institution, the UPC, as well as platforms such as CARNET, that enable cross-cutting work to be carried out to achieve this.”